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Alice Neel: Portraiture on Film (15) + Introduction by Catherine McCormack

Alice Neel in a landscape

A series of filmic portraits exploring how female artists have used the moving image to create works drawing formal, political, personal and aesthetic qualities from the medium of portraiture. 

Many of these films pick up on key themes reflective of elements common throughout the work of Alice Neel, such as loss, the body, gender, motherhood, ageing, class, the art world and home.

By bringing together these works, we reflect the relationship between the tradition of portraiture and the moving image. Whilst there is no defining characteristic of a filmic portrait, there are canonical works or artists who have repeatedly undertaken this approach, such as Margaret Tait, and her masterpiece Portrait of Ga. We begin with this canonical film, as our lynchpin, before branching out to explore how other artists have approached this idea, freely moving across age, race, historical periods and sexuality, to highlight the variety of approaches used within the filmic portrait.

Event Running Time: 90 minutes.

This event is part of the public programme of events surrounding the exhibition Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle, Thu 16 Feb — Sun 21 May 2023 in the Barbican Gallery.

Film programme

Portait of Ga, 1955, Margaret Tait, 4 mins 

Tait film’s her mother’s daily routines resulting in an abstract work, reflecting on the process of ageing and the landscapes of the Orkney Islands.

I Am, 2017, Paige Taul, 3 mins 

Shot on 16mm, the film is formed from an interview by the filmmaker of her mother, and her feelings about what it means to be Black.

Portrait de ma mère dans son jardin, Katerina Thomadaki, 1981, 10 mins

A Portrait of the Thomadaki’s mother in her garden.

White Afro, 2019, Akosua Adoma Owusu, 6 mins

An instructional for White hairdressers on how to achieve and maintain an Afro, intertwined with her mother, who worked as a hairstylist in a majority white salon.

Time Being, Gunvor Nelson, 1991, 6 mins 

Nelson films her mother as she lies on her deathbed, seemingly moments away from death.

Henry, 2017, Rhea Storr, 4 mins 

An interaction with a portrait of the artist’s grandfather. The camera zooms in on the intricacies of the painting, reflecting on both the subject and the materiality of the object.

Ramapo Central, Margaret Salmon, 2003, 8 mins 

A portrait of a middle class woman in North America, capturing the processes and routines of her work and lifestyle.

Sylvia, March 1 and March 2, 2001, Hollywood Hills, Manon de Boer, 2002, 4 mins 

A wordless portrait of actress  Sylvia Kristel, whose most famous role was in the Emmanuelle series, smoking in her home in the Hollywood Hills.

Son Chant, Vivian Ostrovsky, 2020, 12 mins 

Reflecting on the working relationship between filmmaker  Chantal Akerman and Sonia Wieder-Atherton, prompted by finding forgotten  footage Ostrovsky had shot of the two women on old DV tapes

Jane Brakhage, Barbara Hammer, 1975, 10 mins  

After watching Window Water Baby Moving (1958)by Stan Brakhage, Hammer decided to make a more complex work, about Jane Brakhage, that would more accurately reflect a sense of who she was.

SCREEN TEST, Mickalene Thomas, 2016, 7 mins

The artist reworks Warhol’s famed series, focusing instead on African American women. Shot on 8mm, the film’s become a reflection on the gaze with each subject’s differing  reactions and engagements with the camera.

Garden, Alima Lee, 2017, 5 mins

The film reflects on the daily routines necessary to defeat feelings of anxiety and depression, from the perspective of a Black woman.

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