I am delighted to welcome you to the 56th annual exhibition of the Society of Portrait Sculptors (SPS). The exhibition showcases some of the best and most diverse representations of the art of portraiture and offers an intriguing insight into how we see one another and the various skills and approaches required to achieve this. The range and validity of this show has been endorsed by the highest ever number of international applicants from twenty-five countries from around the world.
There are an array of prizes totalling £11,000 generously supported by different benefactors and charities to which the Society is very grateful. The prizes are open to artists no matter what stage in their career or geography.
The prizes are:
Society Prize for the best exhibit in the show
Heatherley School of Fine Art’s Prize for the best runner up exhibit
Tiranti Prize for the best exhibit by a sculptor aged thirty or under
Olin Prize for the best portrait relief sculpture
Tony Stones Award for the best exhibit by a first time FACE exhibitor
Artists’ Collecting Society Prize – for the best exhibit by an exhibitor outside the UK
Founder’s Prize, jointly supported by the Founder’s Company and the Gilbert Bayes Trust – a biennial award given to a sculptor of exceptional talent and selected by the Society’s Council from the exhibitors of that year’s FACE exhibition
Each year the seven members of the SPS Council (all of whom are well established artists in their own right and elected members of the SPS) make a first round selection from photographic applications with the second round then examining the physical version. Very serious consideration and discussion is given to each piece before it is either accepted or rejected and every effort is given to create an exhibition which represents as fully as possible both the current range of practice in portrait sculpture and the huge talent that can be found within the subject.
This year the physical examination of the sculptures was unable to take place due to Coronavirus restrictions but the second-round photographic consideration was equally stringent.
This is the Society’s first online exhibition and comes about by virtue of the agile insight of Council members. I would like to thank Suzie Zamit (our new Vice President) Louisa Forbes, Hywel Pratley, Anthony Dufort, Thomas Merrett and Robert Hunt for all their attention, imagination and thought which initiated the online show. However it is the talent, expertise, hard work and commitment of Thomas Merrett and Rebecca Salter who we have to thank for putting the show together. And I must mention here the wonderful dedication of Fiona Whitehouse, our secretary, administrator and treasurer, whose unstinting hard work behind the scenes helps the Honorary Secretary run the day to day management of the Society. I would also like to thank Poppy Field whose excellent activity on Facebook and Instagram have done so much to spread interest, and brought attention to, the SPS.
The Society is continually creating classes, activities and initiatives. We work with different age groups to promote the educational and professional interest as well as the recreational satisfaction and insight to be found in sculpting one another.
Last year we made our annual SPS contribution to The National Portrait Gallery’s summer lecture series with a thought-provoking and enlightening lecture by Society member and highly acclaimed sculptor of public figures Martin Jennings.
We also have the Friends of the SPS whose programme is now to be taken over by Hywel Pratley after a ‘hard-to-out do’ period organized by Olivia Musgrave.
The Friends make visits to private studios and other exclusive venues associated with the art of portraiture and provide Friends with rare and special cultural insights into the activity. It is extremely worthwhile becoming a Friend and each year I look on with envy as one Friend wins a highly covetable sculpture given by a member - this year a bronze by Martin Jennings.
The Society consists of a vibrant and creative group of individuals each of whom have their own point of view and artistic interests. Each year members are involved in many amazing and significant projects and teach with authentic and heart-felt passion for their subject across the country. In addition, we are joined by new practitioners wanting to become members and this year we are delighted to welcome Maudie Brady and Bayasgalan Batmagnai whose applications were successful.
Harnessing the energy of this diverse and creative group and negotiating a way forward is the task of the Council, the President and the Honorary Secretary and it always makes for a fascinating and exciting range of possibilities.
Someone with an extraordinary ability for harnessing this energy is our Past President Olivia Musgrave. Through her interaction, charm, flexibility and determination she has enabled innovative and far sighted initiatives which will benefit the Society for years to come and which have made this online exhibition possible. To her we owe enormous gratitude. Thank you Olivia.
Behind the Society’s ‘Captains’ who come and go every five years is one very important person who keeps us on course and knows what is possible and practical and how to achieve it. This is our ‘Navigator’ the Honorary Secretary Robert Hunt whose intelligence, common sense, huge experience and talent keep us sailing forward and to whom we owe a great deal.
Our main sponsor is the Marcela Trust for whose consistency and steadfast support we are incredibly grateful and to whom we offer our sincere thanks.
I always find the SPS Exhibition fascinating for the way it illuminates the interaction between the interests of the sitter and those of the maker. Many of the exhibits demonstrate this exchange; some works show the artist in a battle to assert themselves with the subject while others display a gentler discourse. Portraiture does not allow the particular or the idiosyncratic to be ignored and the personalities of both parties are an essential part of the mix. It is this tension and the invented form necessary to show it that I think makes the art of portraiture so compelling and special.
So, finally I wish to thank those artists who have responded in such impressive numbers and who have lent to this online show their creativity. They show us their sitters – and themselves – and allow us to wonder at the magical variety of life.
All the pieces seen here are works of imagination, empathy and interpretation and each asserts the value of, and respect for, the individual.
In this time of great difficulties expressive, considered and sensitive creative resources are more vital than ever in art and life.