Portraits and Self-Portraits By Sibling Artists in Oxfordshire, England

Cally Trench detail 2012 (ink on watercolor paper 53 x 76 cm)
Cally Trench 2012 (ink on watercolor paper 53 x 76 cm)

When Cally Trench came across a pair of pencil portraits she and brother Nick drew of each other, over 45 years ago, the chance discovery became the catalyst for an imaginative and intriguing exhibition by these two contrasting artists, opening at North Oxfordshire’s popular Heseltine Gallery in September 2018.

The “Siblings Cannot Agree” show aims to attract wide appeal by offering a tantalizing touchstone, anywhere in the world, for our perceptions of family and how we see each other.

Working together for only the second time, Cally Trench and Nick Trench have compiled an eclectic range of portraits and self-portraits of themselves spanning five decades – full faces, isolated features, hands and feet – dating back to their teenage years in the London suburbs and tracing through to the present day.

Cally Trench Hands 2018 x 3 (reduced) (each drawing ink on watercolor paper 40 x 40 cm)
Cally Trench Feet 2017 (each 10 x 15 cm)

Says Cally: “The work in this exhibition reveals a seldom-acknowledged phenomenon: that siblings can have a shared background, family, and upbringing and yet end up with very different outlooks, visions and ways of doing things – as demonstrated vividly by our contrasting approaches, ideas, and techniques when it comes to art.”

“Many of us will recognize this curious mix of commonality and difference. There is a recognition and acceptance of difference. In using each other as artistic raw material over many years, we respect each other’s work, but we simply behave and express ourselves differently.”

The works – including pencil, ink, oil and film pieces  – are individual and idiosyncratic in their vision as well as differing in style and format. The two pencil portraits from 1970, which triggered the whole idea, will sit side-by-side to open the display and hint at the two highly disparate artistic expressions that follow.

Nick Trench, detail of Caroline, 1970 (pencil on paper, 35.5 x 25.5 cm)
Nick Trench Caroline with Fan I 2017 (acrylic on canvas 51 x 61cm)

Cally’s formats include diptychs, triptychs, collections of graphic and robust ‘Feet’ and ‘Hand’ drawings and time-lapse films: “They suggest how we perceive people through constant movement. The dynamism is an indication of life and human energy, echoed by the way that viewers have to respond physically, moving backwards and forwards, to make out the detail of the pen and ink marks and then step back to see the whole image.”

Meanwhile, Nick’s approach to his work has an entirely different impulse: “I explore figures in different environments or treat them in different ways. Sometimes the figure may disappear entirely – perhaps it merges into surroundings or disappears behind them.”

The Heseltine Gallery, located near Banbury on the intersecting borders of four of central England’s counties, is the region’s major community art gallery space and is attracting increasing attention for the quality and range of its exhibition program. On a visual arts-led school campus, it aims to showcase the work of local and regional artists and craftspeople, as well as celebrate the achievements of students. The gallery is organized and run by a committee of volunteers and supported by a membership scheme.

Curating the exhibition, Tom Christy explains: “Cally and Nick have developed a very honest concept: viewers may react to the images they have created by thinking about how they see themselves. It’s a display which will resonate with many parents and young people, for we’re all interested in how the world sees us.”

Nick Trench and Cally Trench in friendly rivalry 2018

“At first glance, there’s dissonance rather than cohesion: their work differs dramatically in technique and approach. Yet both inventively use paint, line or video to explore and record who they are and who they have become.”

“I love the way the exhibition encourages the viewer to reassess their own sibling relationships as well as posing more general questions to do with identity and self. Having the show in a gallery linked to a school makes these questions even more pertinent: our siblings, whether we like it or not, have a great deal of influence and impact on who we each become.”

Nick Trench Four Eyes 2015 acrylic on paper 29.5 x 42 cm

Nick adds: “It’s exciting to show in the Heseltine Gallery, on the site of a large art-focused school where students will get a chance to look at our work, from different periods of two artists’ lives. Hopefully, this will inspire discussion about what ‘portrait painting’ can, or might, mean for young people – the so-called ‘selfie generation’ – and encourage them to express their own view of themselves as well as how they are perceived.”

“Siblings Cannot Agree,” with free entry, will run 11am to 3pm, 17-29 September (inclusive) 2018. The Opening Event is on Sunday 16 September, 3-6pm.  The Closing Event is on Saturday 29 September, 11am to 3pm, with a guided tour of the work, led by the artists, plus readings by both artists from their own writings.  Much of the work will be for sale. Student projects will also be scheduled.
The Heseltine Gallery, Chenderit School, Archery Road, Middleton Cheney, OX17 2QR.