As an artist Polly Saunders is concerned with problems of representation. Through large-scale charcoal drawings she investigates the problem of likeness and recognition in figurative art. Currently her drawings focus on fragmentation and disintegration of the image. Her practice is driven by the question of what a portrait can be. Long considered to be a subservient art form due to its relation to the sitter. Saunders’ work seeks to question the dynamic between the artist, sitter and viewer in the experience of making and viewing a portrait. Using methods of distortion that interrupt the viewing experience, the artist plays with the intuitive and learned belief that a human face is the most recogniseable thing, readable with minimal coda. Often Polly Saunders’ work is of a face but denies a simple obvious narrative journey or solution to remake it. The whole remains subjective and open ended.
Often her drawings are not drawings of people, but portraits of photographs. Her concern is that of the image and how it has changed our relationship to others through the concept of likeness. The assessment of likeness is a mental task where an image of the imagination is aligned with the visual data provided by the portrait and likeness is granted by how these two sets of information line up. The problem with new technology and the influence of photography is that the image of the imagination can now be conjured without referent to an external reality. Polly Saunders does not seek to solve these problems but to challenge them further for the audience.
Writer Catherine Linton suggests that Polly Saunders’ work ‘is tactical incompleteness, a game of recognition, which asks what is enough reality to appear real?‘
Born 1988, Birmingham
BA Fine Art & Critical Theory 2008-2011
MA Fine Art 2011-2012
Lives and works in Birmingham
AHRC Research Preparation Award