Positively Bob

by Cass Art

“I’ve done sketching most of my life,” said Bob Dylan of his intriguing new collection of portraits – previously unseen, previously unpublished – which will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) from September.

These 12 pastel portraits are not of recognisable public figures but are “amalgamations”, a mix of characters, some real, some imagined. Loose, rustic sketches, drawn on ‘napkins’ and ‘rough paper or cardboard’ – like Dylan’s music, these portraits are sketches of life, dream-like images collected from memories and the imagination, that seem to flow in and out of our consciousness.

Dylan, an unassailable icon of music, has sketched and drawn since childhood, although he only first went public with his work six years ago.

Most of his creations are based around his experiences in the music industry, conveying the same powerful emotion as his songs.

Previous work from Dylan has included Drawn Blank, a collection of sketches published in 1994, The Brazil Series, exhibited in Copenhagen in 2010, and The Asia Series at the Gagosian Gallery, New York in 2011.

In 2008, meanwhile, The Halcyon Gallery in London featured his drawings and sketches from periods on the road between 1989 and 1992.

Director of the NPG, Sandy Nairne, said: “There is an indirect but delightful relationship with Dylan, who is one of our great, even extraordinary storytellers.

“To have his stories in visual form, to allow the viewer to make their own stories from his work, is intriguing.”

Of course, whether they are any good or not – a question that has been asked before of Dylan’s artistic endeavours – is up to you. But we can’t refute that these portraits, whatever their relative merit, are definitely, positively Bob.

Bob Dylan: Face Value will open its doors on August 24 and run until January 5 next year, with free entry for the duration.

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