Sam Porritt 

Heads & Faces 

18 August to 24 September 2011

This exhibition of ink drawings and sculpture by British artist Sam Porritt brings together work made over the past seven years. Porritt is primarily known for working with ideas that explore abstraction yet this selection focuses on a specific strand of his inquiry – the human head, physiognomy and the anthropomorphic potential of abstract form. The heads and faces in his work are revealed to be a medium as much as a subject.

Porritt’s calligraphic use of Chinese ink acknowledges the medium’s original use with swathes of intense, black gestural marks creating strong visual links to his interest in the pictorial possibilities of written language. The titling of the work encourages multiple readings. In some instances pairs of drawings have binary titles such as The Relationship between Cause and Effect andThe Relationship between Good Pain and Bad Pleasure as if proposing a kind of unresolved argument, with each of the two drawings unwilling to commit or admit to a position.

Baghdad (2005) extends Porritt’s inquiry by the coupling of object with drawing. A dark grey and finely constructed arabesque form stands squarely on the floor. On the wall next to this is a drawing of a head, economically executed with only a few strokes of the brush. The face looks towards the object in bewilderment. Its exaggerated features create a caricature of what we instantly read as puzzlement – perhaps pre-empting our relationship to the work, but also acknowledging the inherently self-referential nature of this proposition.

A Neanderthal cranium is read from the broad and robust mass of Untitled (Head) (2004). Two painted heads, whose drooping features have been pulled from setting plaster investigate sculptural possibilites of surface, form, colour and, ultimately, personality.

One of the most recent of Porritt’s works, I am the Problem (2011), is distinguished by its lack of features. This is one of a group of works using globe lights, the head being casually designated by the application of the artist’s own hair. It is the only work to possess a body, suggested by the positioning of the lamp on a booted and gloved coffee table. Appropriately, this anthropomorphised yet faceless object is shackled to the wall socket by a taut electrical cord.

Curated by Gemma Lloyd.


Sam Porritt (b.1979, London) lives and works in London and Zurich. Recent solo exhibitions include 'Going Forward...' Anne Mosseri-Marlio Gallery, Zurich (2011). 'Life is a Journey' Brown, London (2010). 'Keep the World Out' Hatsplus, London (2009). Group exhibitions include 'Oneself as Another' K3 Project Space, Zurich (2011). 'Recent British Sculpture' Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam (2010). 'Nothing Is Forever' South London Gallery, London (2010). 'Deceitful Moon' The Hayward Project Space, London. 'Double Object' Thomas Dane, London (both 2009).

Free publication: 
This exhibition is accompanied by an interview between Sam Porritt and Gemma Lloyd.

Artist's edition:
Sam Porritt has generously produced a series of 40 unique drawings to raise funds for PEER. Click here to view and buy.

This project has been generously supported by:

The Paul & Louise Cooke Endowment