Celia Scott has worked all her life as an architect, and when she designed her studio she made it in a minimalist modern style. That was clearly her preference. So how has it come about that, being instinctively a modernist, she has produced all these portrait busts?
It happened almost by accident, and the story is told in her book: Celia Scott, (Black Dog 2008)
This problem brings us back to representation, and while the world is full of natural beauty, it also contains ugliness and evil. The problem centres on the human being, and that is no doubt why Francis Bacon believed that portraiture is the highest form of art. For the sculptor, this leads directly to the portrait bust.
The portrait bust is based on the idea of a likeness, but the issue is more complicated than that. The head, which stands for the human being, becomes a bust, a thing in itself. It acquires a presence, a life of its own. Alex Potts has said:
When a sculpture displayed in a gallery does somehow seem compelling, our attention is sustained by an intensified visual and kinaesthetic engagement...This is what makes the fixed shape and substance seem to come alive. (Alex Potts: The Sculptural Imagination, 2000)
For the artist, this provides a somewhat elusive goal: you are on the track of a quality that can only be glimpsed, not grasped. In the book, Alan Colquhoun stated:
...Scott’s work recalls that of Lucian Freud in painting, although their sensibilities are utterly different. Both artists sidestep modernism’s multiple developments over the last hundred years. ...Her style is the conscious choice of a highly intelligent and knowledgeable artist whose instinct and talents lead her to a certain kind of available sculptural expression...one that is still in a sense part of the collective memory of society (in Celia Scott, 2008)
Michael Sandle has said:
Her portrait busts are more than simply “portraits” or facsimiles – they have a powerful physical and psychological presence. (In Head to Head catalogue 2012)
There are twenty-four portrait busts in the show, arranged on bases which put them at eye-height, putting them in conversation with each other – and with the viewer.
Eleven Spitalfields Gallery will be hosting ‘The Artist in conversation with Michael Spens & Ellis Woodman’ on Wednesday 16th May at 6.30pm. Admission is free but booking is advised. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org