With the cold snap we’ve got this week it feels like autumn is on the way out, so it may be a good moment to share with you Hideyuki Sobue’s pictures which are currently on display at the Daiwa Foundation. They’re all portraits and each one is paired with a picture of fallen leaves.
Sobue was born in Aichi, Japan and grew up in an orphanage. He graduated from Osaka University of the Arts and now lives in Cumbria where he’s a prominent member of the Lake Artists Society. All the portraits in his show, called The Way I See, are of people he has come to know personally.
Sobue has spent the last ten years developing a unique brush-hatching technique using Japanese sumi ink and acrylic. It’s inspired by the classical method of disegno, (which means drawing or design in Italian) established in the Florentine School during the Renaissance, which puts the emphasis on the creative strength of line as opposed to colour. For Florentine and other Central Italian artists, drawing was not just the art of using line to define form; it was the artistic underpinning of a work in which the artist could express their inner vision. Painters like Michelangelo studied anatomy and the natural world, and made detailed drawings before starting to paint.
Sobue links this artistic emphasis on drawing with neurological studies which apparently show that the human brain perceives objects predominantly by oriented lines. He uses his drawing-based technique to reflect how human beings see, and at the same time to combine the artistic and cultural heritage of East and West.
Sobue uses a letterbox format for his pictures, which suits the leaves better than it suits the faces, which seem rather cruelly cropped. I almost wished he’d let the faces stand by themselves – the effect is quite different when you focus directly on them like this:
And the leaves as well take on a different life when allowed to speak for themselves.
The leaves were so interesting I went out into Regent’s Park (handily bang outside the gallery) to look at some leaves for myself and compare them with the painted ones. Here’s some of the ones I found. They’re a bit lacking in defining line, which just to goes to show what an artist can add to our perception of nature.
The exhibition is on at the Daiwa Gallery in Cornwall Terrace until 13th December. It’s open on weekdays only from 9:30 am to 5 pm. The piquancy of autumn outside the window as well as in can’t be guaranteed to continue so the sooner you go the better.
And if you want to understand more about the artist’s approach, he’s giving a talk tomorrow (21st November) at the gallery from 6-7 pm followed by a drinks reception.