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12 January - 25 February, 2005
Schierenberg was born in 1962 in Skegness, England to a Chinese mother and German father, also a painter. He studied at St Martin's and the Slade Schools of Art and came to prominence in 1989 when he won the John Player Portrait Award with a painting of his wife, artist Lynn Dennison.
As part of the John Player prize he was commissioned to paint the portrait of writer and barrister John Mortimer for the National Portrait Gallery in London. The NPG also holds his portraits of Lord Carrington (1994) and most recently Lord Sainsbury (2002).
Schierenberg’s intimate portraits of family and friends and his well-publicised portrait commissions, including that of HM the Queen and Prince Philip commissioned by the Readers’ Digest magazine to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary, convey a remarkable insight into the psychological and aesthetic aspects of the genre.
"It is not until the fourth or fifth attempt at painting a subject that I feel I may have begun to capture their real essence as people. I'm always striving for that magic moment when paint becomes an illusion of reality."
Schierenberg’s technique illustrates how an artist overcomes many of the restraints of portraiture to create a likeness of a living human being.
Having only one or two short sittings with his subject, he makes a rapid oil-sketch, relying on photographs for additional information and together, these form the basis of the composition, executed in the artist's studio.
Working with the wet-on-wet technique, he makes many attempts to capture a likeness, scraping back the paint after each unsuccessful day's work. The final likeness usually evolves in a single session and retains the freshness of the rapid brushstrokes, which help to give life to the image. In many cases his sitter's hands provide a second point of focus within the composition, their exaggerated scale giving the painting a monumental feel.
Schierenberg’s subtle landscapes, interiors and still life paintings, together with his portraits, have led to international acclaim and comparisons with Lucien Freud.
He treats the paint almost as if it were flesh, and it is this technique that establishes the major paradoxes characteristic of his work. It is both abstract and realist; edgy and sensitive; grand and inconclusive; violent and melancholic; physically intense and aesthetically detached.
Tai-Shan Schierenberg’s new portrait of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney commissioned for the University collection will be unveiled on 3rd February 2005 and will be included in this exhibition before hanging in the Great Hall.
With thanks and acknowledgements to Flowers East, London.