The Hickman Art Programme: Heath Kane

The Hickman Art Programme: Heath Kane

GPE’s Hickman building is an award-winning sustainably designed new workspace in Whitechapel with creativity, collaboration and socialising at its core. Art Acumen are working closely with GPE to curate engaging exhibitions and creative experiences for the buildings’ tenants and local community.

Our first artist in the programme is Heath Kane, showcasing his series “Portrait of Heroes”.

“Napoleon said ‘history is written by the winners”. He might also have said “And painted for the rich”. The result is a gross distortion of our past. Today we think of Napoleon as a short fat man with a bad comb-over, as this is how portraits painted after his death depict him. Portraits made while he was in power though showed a very different man – tall, athletic, handsome. Were these earlier pictures the vanity projects of an all-powerful leader? Or – as some historians have suggested – were the later portraits intentionally revisionist depictions seeded by the conquering British who wanted to portray him as absurd?

“Portrait of Heroes” was inspired by this question.

Classical art was a means for wealthy individuals to portray how they wanted to be seen. In their portraits skin is always perfect and clear, they are handsome, beautiful and strong, but the reality was most likely very different. The subverted “Portrait of Heroes” pieces playfully suggest that maybe the classical portrait artists of the past were really the Photoshop and Instagram filters of their time. Today we all have the ability to take selfies and live our lives through social media. But how much of what we share is real and how much are we all trying to hero-ise our lives?” Heath utilises the iconic mask of Mexican Wrestler, Blue Demon in this portrait series. He was known to never, ever take off his mask, meaning that for most of his career, many of his fans never saw his face.  Neither his collaborators nor his crew knew what he looked like, nor did he take the mask off during private meetings.