The Portrait Anatomised

National Portrait Gallery, London
7 March – 1 September 2013

Produced as part of a commission for Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospital in Westminster, the portraits in this solo display depict three individuals with epilepsy, a condition that affects one in every 100 people in the UK. Medical imaging techniques that are part of a programme of treatment, such as electroencephalograms (EEGs), convey unique information about a person, Expanding a notion of contemporary portraiture, Aldworth appropriates the illustrative vocabulary of medical science in her innovative printmaking process. Using scans or illustrations from medical textbooks with photographs and expressive freehand or imprint marks, she asks how both sorts of imagery evoke a personality; how they correspond or contrast with a person’s sense of themselves. It is the great conceit of portraiture that the inner self may be revealed in outward form and Aldworth’s work highlights this assumption in relation to a type of imagery not usually found in a gallery setting.                                                                    

Inga Fraser, National Portrait Gallery, 2013.

Questions about personal identity fascinate me. It seems fragile – we might feel a strong sense of who we are at any one moment, but the more you try and make sense of some fixed notion of personal identity over a life time the more it seems to unravel. The challenge is for a portrait to recognise this.