Manchester’s Great and Emerging Self-portraitures; LS Lowry and Jessica Omitola

One of Britain’s most recognised fine artists is Lawrence Stephen (‘LS’) Lowry. His paintings of people, seascapes, industrial landscapes and portraits have been incredibly loved over the years. As a subgenre, self-portraits are rendered by artists to record some interesting aspects of their lives and essentially offer insights, clear and deep enough to help understand the artist. They are not objective representations or realistic portrayals but subjective interpretations of self. One of Lowry’s self-portraits has however caught my attention, particularly in its resemblance to my favourite piece titled, ‘Self Portrait’, by Manchester-based painter, Jessica Omitola.

Apart from the like-mindedness interest in capturing self by these super gifted artists with roots in Manchester, at the time of composing these self depictions, both artists were experiencing some emotional dissociation. Due to his father’s death and mother becoming bedridden, Lowry was in a low place psychologically. Similarly, when Jessica’s father passed on and raised by her mother, the self-taught painter became a witness to the defiant struggle of single black women in British society. She frees us to imagine and to project ourselves into the drama of the portraiture as well as into conversation with her soul. It is exciting how she underlays emotional signifiers on canvas that elegantly expose loneliness, pride, stubbornness, ambition and anxiety about the future.  Her brilliant colour use draws viewers, each to run with their own interpretation.

Technically, Jessica’s abilities are unfolding. Nonetheless, her applications can be tonal, delicate and graceful. Since these are noticeable marks found in accomplished drawings, the propensity to be virtuosic is already evident. Her talent shines not only in the way she executes her technique, but more so in how she animates her composition allowing the viewer’s eye focus on the subject’s intensity and density. With further exploration and unbending focus Jessica will demonstrate incredible facility in future work. I have to say that Jessica’s self-portraiture stands tall and self-assured in contemporary art’s great company and suspect the emerging artist will become increasingly confident in the company of master painters!

Chukwudi Onwudiwe

Founder & Director, Chuck Gallery

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