The Skin We Live In: Portraits from the NGCA Collection

23 November 2024 – 2 March 2025
FREE / No booking required
NGCA Main Gallery

The Skin We Live In is the inaugural exhibition of artwork from Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art’s (NGCA) collection brought together in a group show exploring contemporary portraiture through photography, painting, sculpture, film, and printmaking.

The exhibition features artwork by 28 contemporary artists and photographers who turn the tables on historic associations and practices of portraiture to go beyond ‘skin deep’ delving further into our shared human condition.

Portraiture’s origins trace back to ancient Egypt and until the invention of photography in 1822, painting, sculpture and drawing were utilised to provide a record of the ‘sitters’ appearance or capture a significant moment in time. Portraiture was initially the reserve of the rich and powerful who sort to display their importance, virtue, wealth, taste and power. Tending to flatter, the primary concern of portraitists was to capture the likeness of the sitter, bringing forth their character through distinctive features like their hands and face.

The artworks on display in The Skin We Live In move away from a focus on the individual to reveal a collective experience. They provide visibility and voice to marginalised communities and uncover aspects of our human experience such as loss, isolation, abuse and sexuality often held within ourselves. In many of the artworks, the face is abstracted, obscured, or masked to focus instead on the body incorporating performance, pose, clothing, personal effects or narrative construction to connect with the viewer, not through stare, but instead through honesty, humility and humanity.

Exhibited artists: Samsul Alam Helal, Sophie Lisa Beresford, Natasha Caruana, Jeffrey Dennis, Graham Dolphin, Benedict Drew, Chris Harrison, Alice Hawkins, John Kippin & Nicola Neate, Clarita Lulic, Ian Macdonald, Daniel Meadows, James O Jenkins, Vinca Petersen, Mark Pinder, Joanna Piotrowska, Marjolaine Ryley, Seb Trend, Simon Senn, Daniel Silver, Jade Sweeting, Walker & Bromwich, Jhanee Wilkins and new acquisitions from Johannah Churchill, Michael Daglish and Janina Sabaliauskaite.

Since 2006 Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art has acquired over 500 artworks by more than 50 artists or artist collectives with a focus on, but not limited to, lens-based media and the North East of England. Today the collection continues to grow and is widely loaned across the North East of England and United Kingdom.

Image: Joanna Piotrowska, Untitled, from the Self-defence series, 2015. Silver gelatin hand print. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

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