The Makers: Portraits from Backstage exhibition opens in the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Lounge on 27 January, featuring works by the National Theatre’s first Artist in Residence, Curtis Holder.
Curated by Kate Bryan, broadcaster, writer and Global Director of Art for Soho House, The Makers: Portraits from Backstage is a love letter to the dynamic creative forces that exist behind the scenes of theatre. The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year for 2020, Holder’s multi-layered pencil portraits capture a range of ‘makers’ at the National Theatre including; wigs hair and make-up assistants, prop and puppet makers, a deputy ladies’ cutter, a costume workroom trainee, stage technicians, and one of the National Theatre’s stage door supervisors. At once dynamic and tender, Holder’s portraits bring the backstage to the foreground and provide an uncanny psychological insight into his subjects.
In 2022 the Director, and NT Associate, Dominic Cooke invited Holder into rehearsals of The Corn Is Green, which Cooke directed, to document the progress of the production through hundreds of rapid gestural drawings capturing the emotion of the actors in the rehearsal room. It was from here that the idea of The Makers exhibition was born. The exhibition highlights all corners of the NT’s vast backstage areas, celebrating the incredible craftspeople, creatives and individuals that make the NT productions possible.
Fascinated by the expertise at work, Holder draws attention to the dedication and passion at play, most especially in his eleven large-format portraits. Distilling months of observation and quick sketches, Holder selected a small number of sitters from across the National Theatre to focus upon. The works demonstrates Holder’s remarkable facility to go beyond the surface and transform the humble pencil into a symphony of feeling.
For two decades, Curtis Holder was a primary school teacher in south London and in 2020 became a full-time artist after winning Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year – judged by the exhibition’s curator, Kate Bryan. This is Holder’s first institutional solo exhibition and will incorporate a number of public events at the National Theatre, including family drawing workshops and a live in-conversation portrait sitting with Deputy Artistic Director Clint Dyer.
The exhibition is free and will open on 27 January 2023 in the Lyttelton Lounge. More information can be found here.