Anthony Pilbro – Head 1991

Anthony Pilbro is a painter who lives and works in Ireland and studied at Slade School of Fine Art in London. His painting ‘Head 1991’ is currently on permanent display in The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, which is where I first came across it. The piece is on the larger side, measuring at 119 x 132 cm, which helps with it’s eye catching quality. Pilbro has thickly applied and built up his oil paint, which makes the painting tactile, much like some of the work of Van Gogh if you’ve ever seen it in person. I consider it to create a sense of movement, but there is a calmness to the figure’s face, which contradicts this.

The face and head is not quite proportionally correct, but neither completely abstract. It’s a strange limbo between being true and impossible. The features are recognisable, but it doesn’t seem to resemble an actual person. The head seems too large to be balanced on the neck, the ear is sticking out from a strange position, and the body is incomplete. The figure seems to be lost in their own world, perhaps caught in a light breeze which is carrying their hair and causing them to peacefully close their eyes. But there’s a harshness to the colours that Pilbro has chosen. Much like I began to talk about in a post about Emil Nolde’s ‘Wheat Field’, the choice of using the opposing colours of yellow and blue explores a variety of further themes such as temperature. It furthers my comprehension that maybe the figure is surrounded and by a cool and whipping wind, or maybe even water.

There is a roughness to how the head itself has been painting. It’s not a beautiful face, with hard black lines and uneven jags. The blue on the eyelid makes him/her appear beaten. Ugly faces appear to be a theme throughout his work, but my favourite aspect of his paintings is the texture which he builds up in some of his work.

Pilbro, Anthony, b.1954; Head
Anthony Pilbro – Head 1991
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