A portrait is unable to capture the inner thoughts and feelings of the subject’s mind only their physical appearance. Georgina Gratrix has done a detailed exploration of portraiture with regards to identity. During the COVID-19 Lockdown of 2020 Gratrix turned the spotlight onto herself and completed a watercolour portrait of herself once a day for 63 days. The portrait series is evidence of how her own identity shifted throughout the nine weeks in quarantine.
Gratrix’s exhibition, The Reunion, in which Nine Weeks features, is a collection of portraits that she has painted over the past 10 years, including portraits of herself, her family, friends and even some still-lives. She uses unusual and unexpected colours in her portraits, which change every day, reflecting how her identity changed each day she is locked in her home. Even now, her identity will be changing every day. The colours can also be seen as a signifier of her mood on that particular day, unexpected colours being a signifier of anger or stress, possibly even disappointment. It can also be argued that the unexpected colours could be a signifier of the unexpected aspects of her identity, the aspects hardly anyone knows about.
Portraiture is simple yet very complex at the same time. What makes portraiture so complex is the fact that it is able to show physical identity, but not the internal. Although Nine Weeks consists of self-portraits of Georgina Gratrix, her style is expressive with uncomfortable distortions and unusual, saturated colours. This makes it difficult for the viewer to imagine the true physical appearance of the subject which in this case also happens to be the artist.
Identity is never fixed. Identity is perceived differently by everyone and one could argue that a single person is a compilation of 100 different identities if witnessed by 100 different individuals. An example of this would be if one were to ask 100 individuals to photograph the same person, each photograph would turn out differently, portraying 100 different identities of the same individual.
The space and people around you affect one’s identity every day whether one realises or not. There are layers and layers to a persons’ identity that even they may not know exist. It is impossible to show these layers in just one portrait. This exhibition by Georgina Gratrix clearly depicts the complexity of portraiture as identity. Her work shows us how identity is something that evolves on a daily basis. Not only is identity something that changes for the individual and their own perception of the self, but for others that witness this daily metamorphosis.