Arts of the UK 2020: Lorna May Wadsworth installs striking portraits of Neil Gaiman at newly opened Shapero Modern and Shapero Rare Books
LONDON – Renowned contemporary artist Lorna May Wadsworth (artist in residence for the Amazon Prime series Good Omens) will be exhibiting The Book of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books located in its new first floor space on New Bond Street and Big Neil at newly opened Shapero Modern in an exciting short-term exhibition.
Wadsworth rose to prominence in the contemporary art world before she had completed her postgraduate course at the prestigious Royal Drawing School, with a series of notable works, including portraits of the Rt. Hon. Lord Blunkett and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt. Hon. Lord Williams. One of her most acclaimed works, a monumental portrait of the late Margaret Thatcher, was completed from five life sittings. The resultant painting is one of the most commanding and respected formal portraits of a modern British Prime Minister.
Author Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Neverwhere, Coraline), shown in these works at both Shapero spaecs, is one of the most treasured storytellers of our time. In Big Neil Wadsworth has captured Gaiman ‘god sized’, in a 2 metre large head, echoing his epic early novel American Gods. In casting Neil as the omnipotent narrator Wadsworth echoes the adoration in which he is held by his fans; an ardent fervour usually associated with rock stars, not those who sit atop the New York Times bestseller list.
Accompanying this, Wadsworth’s portrait The Book of Neil Gaiman is a life-size rendering of the author’s head suspended in layers of sun-bleached wax, crafted upon a piece of prehistoric bog oak which lay forgotten within the cold dark earth for thousands of years. The double-sided portrait, of both the front and back of his head, is manifested within the form of something almost book shaped. It is a piece which seems both ancient relic and other worldly. Indeed, time is contained and condensed within this dark, dense tome which will never open.
Also at Shapero Rare Books, Wadsworth will exclusively unveil her preparatory studies which reveal the fascinating progress of developing this technique, inspired by the wax Fayum mummy portraits of the dead.
Wadsworth has always challenged the portrait tradition and a recurrent theme throughout her work is the inversion of the gendered gaze. Highlights from her career include her contemporary interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco and her dazzling portraits of such celebrated sitters as actors David Tennant and Sir Derek Jacobi, award-winning film maker Richard Curtis and another former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair.
Lorna May Wadsworth: Neil Gaiman runs from 30th October to Friday 13th November 2020 at Shapero Modern, 41-43 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PD. More information available here