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Artist Arabella Dorman On Her Richard III Portrait

Posted on June 20, 2016 at 6:00 AM



Artist Arabella Dorman at work


We are thrilled to announce that internationally renowned conflict artist and portrait painter Arabella Dorman has chosen CVP actor, Shaun Johnson, as a subject for one of her works to be shown in a new exhibition, Hidden Scars, planned to coincide with the centenary of the end of World War I in 2018.


Now residing in London with her family, Arabella has in the past been commissioned as an official war artist and embedded with the British Army on several occasions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also travelled extensively with her husband, filmmaker Dominic Elliot. In all she made four month-long trips to conflict zones, one to Iraq and three to Afghanistan.


She describes the time spent with the British armed forces, particularly in Afghanistan, as a privilege. Says Arabella, “A still image can tell a powerful story. The stories that emerge from war and conflict are very raw. It’s the human condition boiled down to its very essence, both in the good and in the bad.”


Her admiration for service personnel, what they do and the extraordinary conditions in which they do it, is evident. She talks of astonishing bravery, courage and camaraderie. She wanted to show first-hand the human face of conflict by capturing the quiet stories behind the headlines and this meant including the local population. It was important to counter the dominant narrative of “strong men with beards” by focusing on other aspects we rarely hear about, such as girls who love to dance or tender fathers.


“Afghanistan is a country that you leave a bit of yourself in and bring back a part of it with you,” Arabella says.


Another facet of conflict Arabella wishes to highlight is that, whilst the war might end, it doesn’t necessarily end for those who were in it. This is one of the reasons she has chosen to portray Shaun in character as Richard III. “The CVP is a wonderful example of how soldiers can, through the power of expression and through art, transition back to civilian life and maybe come to terms with some of the things they’ve seen and done.”


Though he is not a true portrait of the historical person he was based on, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s play is fascinating in that he is a great soldier who struggles to make the transition to peace-time and turns into a notorious villain. Like Richard III, Shaun has wrestled with his inner demons, but unlike Richard III, Shaun has, or is overcoming them. Arabella hopes to bring out that sense of struggle in the character, as well as Shaun’s own personal triumphs and ongoing conflicts, in her picture.


Hidden Scars will focus on the consequences of war, but not just on the immediate impacts: Arabella fully intends to throw the spotlight on the long-term repercussions too. We have no doubt that she will achieve her aim and we will be excited to see her portrait of Shaun exhibited alongside her other new work.


For more information on Arabella’s work, please visit her website: www.arabelladorman.com


(Note: This blog was adapted from an interview by Richard Hatch on BFBS Radio.)

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