Faces – Anatomy of Autonomy

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It’s not often that I go to a gallery and leave uplifted, smiling and with feelings of genuine warmth but that was the case when I went to the Faces exhibition at Leeds Gallery by Lee Goater on Saturday.  The exhibition is beautifully simple in it’s execution but it’s through this simplicity that it draws you in and make you reflect on the big themes of humanity and who we are.

When I went into the gallery I asked someone if it was OK to take a few photos, for reasons that I’ve never fully grasped lots of galleries have lots of issues with this, and the person said of course it was the whole point of the project is to share things.  Turns out as I was chatting to this person that it was the artist himself and what a refreshing person he was to talk to.

Lee has created a whole host of very simple faces, different ages, genders, religions built up very simply from a circle and adding a few lines and shapes.  Lee started Faces off with 8 characters that were put onto 180 polaroid sized magnets which were they distributed and stuck up around the UK in a playful take on street art and there were some lovely photos in the exhibition of these but what I really liked were the actual Face designs that Lee has created.  There is a real graphic quality to the faces that I really like, they are all uniform but are all different at the same time and this link to typographic is cheekily referenced in the piece Typeface.

The exhibition and wider Faces project encouraged you to create your own Face design and in doing so starts to ask bigger questions I feel about who you are and how you see yourself, after all the best art for me is art that reflects you within it and what better way that to create your own face.  In the centre of the exhibition were Face cards and stencils where you can create yourself or any other face creation (one of my kids has kindly created me – see below) or you can download the Make a Face app on iOS or Android, a really clever idea of getting people to interact with the ideas behind the exhibition.  This interactivity and the general playfulness of Lee’s creations are great but it really made me think about who we are and how we express ourselves.  No matter who we are, what age we are, what gender we are, what we wear etc it is the the smile (or otherwise) that we put on our own faces that will be how we are perceived.  We portray so much through our facial features and no matter who or what we are at the end of the day are any of us really that different?

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