Portrait sitters, artists and museum staff at The Beaney. From left to right: Millie Knight, Orianne Pierrepoint, Sarah Spencer, Dene Leigh, Dr Sinan Rawi, Anne-Sophie Ouattara Photo: Canterbury CC

Canterbury’s Museums and Galleries has announced the three early career artists and portrait sitters selected to create commissions celebrating the district’s diverse population.

These commissions will be displayed at The Beaney as part of Mirror Mirror, an exhibition developed in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery as part of their National Skills Sharing Partnership Programme, which sees the beginning of Canterbury Museums and Galleries’ long term ambition to ensure the city’s collection represents the talent and strength of the local community.

Following the public call out for sitter nominations celebrating community heroes from underrepresented groups, three portrait sitters were selected by the Be Connected panel made up of representatives from local community groups. The chosen sitters are:

  • Dr Sinan Rawi – an ex-Lecturer of Electronics, Mathematics and Science at Canterbury College who plays an active role in the city’s Muslim and Arab/Middle East community
  • Delilah Tickles – a well known drag queen and important figure at the heart of Canterbury’s vibrant LGBT+ community
  • Millie Knight – a 3 x Paralympic Medalist and University of Kent graduate from Canterbury who was the youngest ever British athlete to compete at a Winter Paralympics

Early career artists were able to apply for the three commission positions, offering the opportunity to develop their portraiture skills under artistic mentorship. The successful candidates are:

  • Orianne Pierrepoint (painting Dr Sinan Rawi) – a young, emerging portraitist with an impressive history of involvement in community initiatives that champion inclusivity, diversity and equality
  • Hannah Thomas (painting Delilah Tickles) – a UNESCO PhD Scholar exploring the human and social impact of art for migratory and marginalised communities through practice-based research
  • Dene Leigh (painting Millie Knight) – an artist specialising in oil painting who uses layered imagery to uniquely capture the personality, life and achievements of their portrait sitters

Over the coming weeks, each artist will work together with their sitter to develop the new portraits, with mentoring from award-winning artist Sarah Spencer, to be featured in the museum’s upcoming Mirror Mirror exhibition and accessioned into their permanent collection.

On display at The Beaney from Saturday 19 November 2022 until Sunday 29 January 2023, the exhibition has been developed in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery around the theme of representation, combining works from the collections of both organisations. Admission will be free, with donations encouraged.

Lead councillor for culture, Cllr Joe Howes, said: “We are thrilled to be working with talented early career artists who, over the coming months, will be creating three brand new portraits for the city’s collection that will better represent who we choose to celebrate in our communities today.”

This commitment to reinterpreting the museums’ historic collection is soon to be explored further, through partnership work with the University of Kent, as part of the Beyond Binary project examining histories of gender play in Kent’s music hall and pantomime collections.

By Ed

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