Carl Randall’s Hyperrealist Portraits

Carl Randall‘He’s not a Japanese artist, you know,’ said the girl at the Berloni Gallery when I gave her my Sequins and Cherry Blossom card. I know. But Carl Randall, winner of the 2012 BP Travel Award, is a former Daiwa Scholar who studied at the Tokyo University of the Arts and paints remarkable hyperrealistic yet subtly distorted portraits of Japanese people. So I wanted to see his latest work.

Yannick and I popped in to take a look this week, rather late in the exhibition’s run but better late than never. We found some of his large oil and acrylic representations of closely-packed faces on the ground floor. They’re Randall’s response to the combination of overpopulation and remoteness, community and anonymity that is typical of the lives of inhabitants of Tokyo and other great cities.

Carl Randall

All of the faces represented are portraits of volunteers, but the flat perspective and distortion of the lengthened faces distances the viewer from the real people they depict. It makes one wonder what the sitters thought of the finished portraits, and what a difference it might make to their faces if they smiled.

The sense of alienation continues in works where neon advertising placards shine a cold light on alleyways and high streets dedicated to consumer culture. This is not an attractive, tourist company view of Tokyo – quite the reverse.

Carl Randall

Downstairs we found a slightly different approach. The massed ranks of faces had been painted in a softer way, and individual portraits had a sense of humanity and individuality lacking in the more clinical works on the ground floor.

Carl Randall

Carl Randall

Carl Randall

Amongst them was one work that particularly attracted me. Titled Hanami, Hanabi (flower viewing and fireworks) it was a matched pair of pictures, painted in strong colours that came as a relief after the insistent monochrome of most of the other pictures in the show. It shows a typical collection of hanami parties, where office workers have picnics under the blossoming cherry trees and get very drunk.

Carl Randall

One lady has dressed in a brightly-coloured kimono for the occasion and her party sit on the kind of blue oilcloth sheet that is almost de rigeur for hanami picnics.

Carl Randall

Yannick preferred a sheet of simple line-drawn pictures, of which I can only show a detail here.

Carl Randall

(Apologies for the slight reflections in some of these photos. The works are framed under glass, the art blogger’s worst enemy).

The exhibition at the Berloni Gallery on Margaret Street continues until 15th November. It’s open Tuesday to Friday 11am  to 6pm, Saturday 12am to 4pm.

Carl Randall

12 thoughts on “Carl Randall’s Hyperrealist Portraits

  1. It looks like a very interesting show especially as there has been more press than usual about portraits following Grayson Perry’s Nat Portrait show and TV series. ‘Smiling’ is very out of fashion these days isn’t it, a bit like being colourful. Shame.

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  2. I guess the name didn’t give away that Carl Randall wasn’t Japanese?! that’s a very silly comment of the woman to make. Nonetheless the work is beautiful. My favourites is Hanami/Hanabi. I find the faces a bit claustrophobic which no doubt is one of the emotions is trying to invoke.

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  3. Great show – versatile talented artist I thought, who has the ability to use a variety of medium and approaches. Nice to see an artist who works mainly from life also

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    • I agree – and it’s interesting that there are so many volunteers willing to sit for him. I hope he moves more in the direction of personal portraits in future.

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  4. Mechanisation of human living conditions tends to narrow one’s inner life… These portraits of the crowd which consists of real people are telling me story of the homogenisation and individuality. I find them beautiful and precious.

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