Kate Middleton official Portrait by Paul Emsley
This is where it comes to!
The effects of a mass-diffused visual culture, sustained by the ever increasing use of visual icons (be that of celebrities or the much hated Facebook duck-faced time wasters), has shown what it really is about. Ugly or Beautiful?
These are the two shallow answers to the question about the quality of the official portrait Paul Emsley presented of Kate Middleton.
While talking with friends and colleagues I have noticed how quickly my peers offered their judgement on such painting. Typically they say: “It’s just ugly” or “Kate does not look like that at all!” or, even worse, “This is not faithful to reality…” and so on. My concern comes from the way people in general seem in need to be reassured by the expected, the obvious, the objective…
The daily use of the photographic/video medium in social networks or as the main source for google/news/curiosity information gathering has indeed left no room to ponder on much we come across through our television, internet and so forth. We are used to retrieve and process visual information at the speed of light, and therefore feel the need to reduce our processing criteria to essential esthetic categories such as “ugly” and “beautiful” or “yes” and “not”, as in the binary system there is no other option other than 1 as in “On” and 0 as in “Off”, which recalls our daily gestures we use to switch on and off our mobile phones or computers. But, are we that simple?
Going back to our Kate, such inarticulate approach to her portrait translates into a far too simplistic and unforgiving sterile judgement of what I rather believe being a complex artistic interpretation of a person who represents an equally complex range of qualities.
Since Kate Middleton came under the media spotlight for marrying Prince Charles’s son William, no one can deny how much she’s been associated with the image of the late Princess Diana, and we can figure out why…
We cannot forget either how the royal family is represented on the 21st century’s media and how much the shadows of doubts and intrigues related to them weights on civil society, from the countless scandals to more serious interferences with politics….
All the above and much, much more I believe is present in Emsley’s portrait, where Kate does not look like she does on photographs, and precisely, we are not debating on a photograph but on a painting enriched by the artist’s interpretation and views. The grim on Kate’s face is quite spectacular and haunting, her aged figure offers this painting a further dimension in time and her rising eyebrow allows the painting itself to speak back to the viewer in real time. The black background is also adding mystery to this public figure we are yet to discover, while the bags under the eyes reflect a more human figure, closer to us mortals…
I personally do not care much, if at all, about the royals, William or Kate, but I do care about the work of an artist, when this has to be dismissed or accepted with a simple switch or swipe just for the sake of our thirst for a quick visual fix.
Finally, I would eventually come to a conclusion and possibly make my mind up on a number of question remained so far open, but this will come in time, after I will have fully digested the values of Emsley’s portrait.