The latest exhibition at Trinity Gallery is Behind the Face – the work of four portrait painters who examine the relationship between the artist and their muse – running until June 18. Eileen Leahy spoke to one of the exhibitors, Gilly Lovegrove, about the show’s content and concept

‘Luyiso’ by Andrew James

EVERY few weeks, Trinity Theatre gives local artists the opportunity to exhibit their work in their small yet influential arts space.

Free to attend, and open from 10am until 10pm at night, it’s a gem of a gallery which you can drop into on your lunch break or before seeing a show in order to appreciate the artistic endeavours of a plethora of painters, photographers and sculptors.

The fascinating Behind The Face opened on June 6 and is a show featuring the work of four artists: Felicity Gill, Andrew James, Michele Illing and Gilly Lovegrove.

Gilly Lovegrove’s ‘Lucy’

“The exhibition shows examples of commissioned portrait painting and personal artwork, and is a rare opportunity to see award-winning artists who live and work in the local area,” explains Gilly.

“The personal paintings demonstrate the artist’s exploration outside the perimeters of a commission or brief. It is great to bring work out of the studio and into the public domain and to experience the effect the paintings have on the viewer and their response. There is also a sense of completion after months of working towards the exhibition, and it will hopefully illustrate the fact that there is a thriving portrait painting scene in the Tunbridge Wells area.”

This is the first time that the group of artists have collaborated together, and Gilly says they have now become ‘firm friends’.

‘Apart from the camaraderie, this exhibition has enabled us as portrait painters to showcase four very different approaches to painting the uniqueness and beauty of human forms’

“Apart from the camaraderie, this exhibition has enabled us as portrait painters to showcase four very different approaches to painting the uniqueness and beauty of human forms,” continues Gilly.

“Felicity, who has painted many notable portraits, including academics, actors and MPs and has appeared on the BBC’s Star Portraits, admires the work of Paula Rego, so her storytelling and dark, fairy-tale-like quality draws you in and stimulates the imagination. She has forced political change in her home country of Portugal with her arresting work.

“For Michele, who is a watercolour portrait artist and won the Faber Castell Award in 2014 for her pastel painting of Big Baby, artists like Guan Weixing, Liu Yun Sheng, David Parfitt, Miguel Linares Rios, Emerson Mayes, Marc Folly and Andrew Wyeth are all big influences because they are all so brilliant and have very unique styles.

“Watercolour is a particularly hard medium to master and they make it look so easy.”

WATER COLOUR Felicity Gill’s ‘Mermaid’

Gilly goes on to say that ‘countless artists’ have influenced Andrew’s work, but there is one that stands out above all the others: Pablo Picasso. “Andrew told me that he ‘never fails to generate a profound effect’. He also said that he embodies ‘human invention at its greatest’.

“Andrew has worked on many prestigious commissions of public figures, and also starred in the BBC’s Star Portraits, and was Vice-President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2008.”

As for Gilly, who in 2011 was invited to take part in Katerina Seda’s From Morning Til Night exhibition commissioned by Tate Modern, her artistic inspirations are two well-known figures:

“Personally, I look to Degas and Caravaggio for their love of light and shadow and for painting life as it is in true, gritty reality.

“I also admire Euan Uglow for his beautiful observations of colour.”

Michele Illing’s ‘Cutie Pie’

Behind The Face runs until June 18 at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells. Entrance is free and the gallery is open from 10am until 10pm. For more information see www.trinitytheatre.net