Remarkable realism at Ductac

Edward Sutcliffe talks creative portraiture for Dubai exhibition

Edward Sutcliffe talks about the art of creating portraiture and his first solo show at Ductac.

He only moved to Dubai within the past six months, but British artist Edward Sutcliffe’s amazingly detailed portraits have already been unleashed on the city’s art scene. An established figurative painter, Sutcliffe studied art history at the University of Wales before pursuing a post-graduate diploma at London’s famous art college Central Saint Martins.

Having exhibited at London’s prestigious National Portrait Gallery as a result of success in the BP Portrait Awards, he has been fortunate enough to paint a number of significant people from British society, including the politician and Oscar winning actress Glenda Jackson. The painter himself is quick to acknowledge the competition has been instrumental to his success ‘It’s the biggest portrait competition in the world. I’ve been in it six times – five times since 2007 and about a quarter of a million people will visit that show, which creates a huge amount of traction for my work.

I’ve had a number of private and public commissions, primarily through exposure at the awards.’

In the case of Glenda Jackson, it wasn’t a commission. ‘I was living in London at the time and she was my local MP. I’d just done a few commissions and I thought, what can I do next and I thought, well actually, she’s a very interesting individual, I quite like her and she won a couple of Oscars. She was my local MP so we ended up going to see her and after a 15 minute conversation, she agreed to sit for me and that was how that portrait came about.’

The portrait, which forms part of Sutcliffe’s solo exhibition at Ductac, is a showcase of the artist’s uncompromising attention to detail and dedication to realism. When his work is compared to one of Britain’s greatest modern portrait artists, Lucien Freud, Sutcliffe can see the relation to a degree, although he admits that he’s not always had the artistic freedom to create a ‘warts-and-all portrayal’ of his sitters.

‘What I have done for clients in the UK – is what I would call relatively flattering portraits but without crossing the line, or being cheesy.

A lot of my work has come from that realistic tradition and the tradition of Lucien Freud. He was someone that I was aware of when I was doing GCSEs and A-Levels. He was a big figure in my artistic development and I do veer towards the realist tradition of trying to capture every last detail. But the one thing I don’t want to say is that I’m an absolute, warts-and-all painter because there’s a lot more nuances to my work.’

Sutcliffe has been experimenting with self-portraits since discovering more time and freedom following his departure from his busy life in London, finding it liberating in comparison to the obligations of realism. ‘With a model, you always have a responsibility to portray someone honestly. The latest portrait I did was on a paper bag and it looked like a mask. I had the idea of putting a paper bag over my head and painting a face [on it]. It’s not as technically rigorous as some of my other work, but since I’ve been out here I’ve had more time to experiment and have fun. The thing with realism is that it can be a bit dry, stale and old-fashioned so I wanted to make sure that the new work I’m doing is interesting and different.’

Sutcliffe will be running a series of workshops during March at Ductac, where participants will get to utilise his notable talent with capturing faces, the essence of individuals and their personality on canvas.

The artist says his exhibition at Ductac is called ‘The Bathroom Mirror: Effigies and Faces’ in relation to his work’s honesty, as with when you stare at yourself in the bathroom mirror in the morning. It’s certainly a title that’s an appropriate testament to the true nature of his work.
Visit, or follow him on Twitter via @EdwardSutcliffe.

The Lowdown

Exhibition: ‘The Bathroom Mirror: Effigies and Faces’ at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 4777).
Runs: Until March 1
Artist: Edward Sutcliffe

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