The BP Portrait Award 2013 is currently on view at the National Portrait Gallery, with works by over fifty artists on display. And despite our best efforts and the obviously impressive range of skills on view, we were at a loss to pick a favorite; one work that would leap out from the walls to grab our attention and demand a ‘like’.
After spending several long minutes looking at his paintings, peering up close to stare at details of doe-eyes and count the number of mobile phones within a frame, we were finally satisfied that we had found ‘it’.
With art degrees achieved in both London and Tokyo, and with numerous awards under his belt, Randall used the £5,000 prize of the BP Travel Award 2012 to travel along the ancient Tōkaidō highway between Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan. In doing this he traced the footsteps of the famous Japanese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), who traveled that very route in 1832 to create a series of ukiyo-ewoodcut prints called the The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. While this area has undergone many obvious changes from then to now, what does impress us in Randall’s depictions of modern-day Japanese life is that the urban and rural co-exist neck-to-neck but without any discomfort or condescension.
A.G. Rizzoli or Achilles Gildo Rizzoli as his full name stands, deserves a reverent stroll around the gallery, and in fact several back and forth’s and across the room’s.
A San Francisco resident, Rizzoli was born in 1896 and spent most of his life employed as an architectural draftsman. He was quintessentially what you would classify as a competent employee and a devoted son. Celibate for life and with few friends, Rizzoli was also a visionary artist whose work was only discovered several years after his death in 1981. Possessing a highly vivid imagination, his drawings depicted people and events as towers, cathedrals and various other architectural edifices, while skillfully marrying Art Deco, Rennaissance and a number of other architectural styles.
Rizzoli invented a world expo that he called Y.T.T.E. (Yield To Total Elation) that is featured in several of his drawings, journals and architectural plans. And he also hosted an annual exhibition from 1935 to 1940 at his home in San Francisco called the A.T.E. (Achilles Tectonic Exhibit). Sadly these exhibitions were not popular, attracting only a few visitors in the form of family members and the children who played on his street. But he documented nearly everyone who visited these exhibitions in his drawings, some of which are below.
While this is all very creative and fascinating, the most poignant aspect of his work is that Rizzoli was a man who found it easier to communicate with the world through his drawings; be it thanking someone who came to visit, or a little girl who liked his annual exhibition. And he made his drawings powerful and magnificently detailed, investing in them the very best parts of him, that he otherwise found hard and maybe impossible to share with anyone.
An artist who failed to receive any recognition during his life time, we’re delighted that Hayward Gallery has included him in the show. Our favorites are the cathedral-like Mother Symbolicly Represented, 1935 and the phallic shaped The Primal Glimpse at Forty, 1936 – Rizzoli drew this work as an immediate reaction to seeing the genitalia of a little girl on the street outside his house. Rizzoli remained celibate all his life and died an undiscovered genius in 1981.
“That you too may see something you’ve not seen before”