“A celebration of existence while simultaneously questioning the value of worldly endeavour” – Tarnya Cooper, Chief Curator of the National Portrait Gallery London

Sacred Portraits is a new polemic exhibition by London artist Alexander de Cadenet launching at Andipa Gallery on 23rd June 2015. Arguably the most objective form of self-representation, de Cadenet’s skull portraits break the mould of traditional portraiture by passing his subjects through an x-ray process revealing a skeletal forensic record with personalized elements relating to each subject’s unique character. As a precursor to current trends, de Cadenet’s study and work with skull portraiture date back 20 years, pre-dating works from other new contemporaries such as Damien Hirst. With a series of inspiring yet controversial historical icons, this provocative exhibition features photographic skull portraits from celebrities to ancient kings including Marilyn Monroe, Hitler and King Tutankhamun.

In addition to his selected historic figures, de Cadenet also accepts private commissions allowing clients the opportunity to capture their own photographic skull portrait by working directly with the artist to create a unique piece using external artifacts, situations or environments. Past clients include royalty and notable individuals, couples, and families in fashion, industry, banking and the arts.

Inspired by the tradition of the Vanitas, relating to the transcendence of earthly life, de Cadenet’s work explores a deeper representation of self, beyond flesh and bone, creating a timeless snapshot of the current moment with a medium that speaks to our past and future alike. The resultant radiograph cannot be created in Photoshop and is an authentic record of the subject’s identity.

A notable part of the series, ‘The Star’ is a dramatic representation of Marilyn Monroe that questions the vanity of earthly status and fame by reaching beyond external beauty to show the anatomical essence of the icon. Here de Cadenet parodies the glamorous mask of celebrity with a portrait that strips away all material attachments, leaving the star exposed and timeless with a certain divine presence suggested by the halo above. Using this ‘anti-portrait’ approach, the work speaks to the aesthetic of pop art while also suggesting a deeper spiritual contemplation touching on the mortality of life.

Sacred Portraits will release 9 new extremely limited edition works in two formats and offers the opportunity to privately commission a unique portrait as an individual, couple or family using meaningful personal artifacts that speak to the essence of the client’s identity and being.

Born in London in 1974, Alexander de Cadenet works in the media of photography, painting and sculpture. With a practice that draws inspiration from historical portraiture, spiritualism and symbolism, his work explores sacred traditions through a contemporary perspective. The skull portraits transform instruments of medical intention into artworks that explore themes of vanitas, the nature of celebrity and existential investigation. De Cadenet has been experimenting with this form of art for 20 years and the skull portraits have been widely exhibited and presented in numerous international private collections and publications.

Alex De Cadenet completed his BA at Courtauld Institute of Art, London in 1996. His exhibitions include Victoria & Albert Museum, (London), Courtauld Institute of Art, (London), Tate Britain (London), Gallery Marino (Rome) and the Beijing National Museum (Beijing). He has been featured in Time Out, Art of Britain, Art Tomorrow and Movements in Art Since 1945 by Thames and Hudson.