Untitled (Icon), 2017
Thomas J Price makes figurative sculptures depicting imaginary black, male subjects, playing with material, scale and modes of display in order to explore the relationship between representation and perception. This exhibition presents Price’s most recent work, the Untitled (Icon) series: a new sequence of fictional portraits that are amalgamations of a range of sources, from classical sculpture to observed individuals in London’s British Caribbean communities.
Constantly experimenting with materials and technologies, for the Untitled (Icon) series Price has adopted two techniques for the first time: gilding, and 3D modelling. The use of 24 carat gold leaf has a powerful cultural resonance, as a technique which dates back to ancient Egypt and continues to signify luxury, splendour and exultation. The subjects depicted in these gilded sculptures, placed upon marble plinths in a classical style, are cast as ‘icons’ of a modern age, despite their anonymous, ‘untitled’ identities. Price subtly subverts the viewer’s expectations, reframing the image and associations of black men in contemporary society and in art. This sense of subversion is heightened by the knowledge that these heads were sculpted using cutting-edge 3D modelling techniques, a digital amalgamation of features with no rooting in reality. We are led to wonder whether the individual’s ‘true’ identity really exists, amidst or beneath the layers of constructed presentation and conditioned perception.