Charles holding an unmounted paper cutting up to the camera

Lockdown Paper Cuttings: a new open studio exhibition

WITH LOCKDOWN measures about to ease I’m pleased to announce Lockdown Paper Cuttings, my upcoming open studio exhibition. It feels like far too long since I was able to show mt test art collection to the public.

Lockdown Paper Cuttings
Mays Barn Studio
Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th July 2021

The exhibition will take place over three days at my studio in Reading.

Lockdown Paper Cutting

Paper cutting of a woman wearing a mask
Anonymous Masked Portrait no 8

Lockdown certainly gave me some time to experiment with paper cutting techniques!

If you follow me on Instagram (the only social media I’m any good at) you may have seen some of these already. I begin them with a fairly loose and expressionistic pencil drawing and then cut them with scissors exactly to the line I’ve drawn.

I’ll be exhibiting a set of twelve paper cuttings, each mounted on glass to preserve their three-dimensionality. Each is available in an edition of five (which is as many as I can cut without going slightly insane.) Collectors can chose between glass mounting (as exhibited) or mounted on card.

Please Register your Interest

Because of the current situation – and my slight disbelief concerning the promised end to lockdown – I’m asking people to register their interest on my art gallery website:
where you can also see a preview of the work to be exhibited.

(Note that registration does not imply a commitment to attend. It will simply allow me to offer scheduled visits in small socially-distant groups should this turn out to still be necessary.)

A Hybrid Event Experiment

As you probably realise by now I’ve become a huge fan of Zoom and am keen to explore the possibilities of hybrid events. For this reason I’ll be offering a virtual option for visitors too far away, or too short of time to make the journey to my Reading studio.

Download Hybrid Exhibition Information

I’m be holding a Private View on Thursday 23rd July. You may have already received one, but if not (and you’d like one) please let me know.

Anonymous Masked Portraits

Complex paper cutting held between them and middle finger
Anonymous Masked Portrait no 14
Shortlisted for the RA Summer Show 2021

For obvious reasons, the mask has become a potent symbol of our times. Many hate them, yet I find myself strangely fascinated by them.

For a portrait artist the mask represents a particular challenge: how does one capture a likeness when a large portion of the face is hidden? As a silhouettist I’m very familiar with this challenge. Eyes, ears and cheekbones (all so important important for a portrait artist) are effectively hidden from me. They disappear inside the profile. Creating a portrait of somebody wearing a mask is a similar problem in a different guise.

More than that, however, the mask makes a very particular statement about communication. To mask somebody seems akin to muzzling them, to somehow forcing them to be silent. The main reason so many people feel uneasy about wearing masks is not simply because they make the air smell stale, but because they hide those many facial expressions on which non-verbal communication relies. They both hide our feelings and hide the feelings of others from us.

In creating this new series of paper cuttings I’m trying to explore my own feelings about masks and communication whilst at the same time playing with line and form. Each is based on a free, gestural drawing which I then cut as accurately as I can with my scissors. My aim is to reproduce unquestioningly all the little unplanned marks which inevitably arise when drawing fast. During the act of drawing I allow myself to express my conflicted views on the whole of subject of mask wearing. Then, during the act of cutting I simply enjoy the process and all the strange, abstract shapes which fall out of the holes.

I learned recently that one of these pieces, Masked Portrait #14, has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Show 2021, in London. Confusingly (due to the pandemic) this show opens in the autumn, so I won’t know until September whether it actually gets shown or not!

Wish me luck!

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Suzy Howes
2 years ago

Fascinating portraits of mask wearers. Good luck with number 14 at the RA!

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