Standing Still, by Eugene Palmer – The Poetics of Portraiture at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, UK

A recent fine art acquisition by Wolverhampton Art Gallery – “Ann” (2022), by Jamaican-British visual artist Eugene Palmer (b. 1955, Kingston) – went on public display today (February 18th, 2023) in the Georgian Gallery as part of the local council’s permanent collection.

Installation view of three fine art portraits displayed on the walls at Wolverhampton Art Gallery near to a grand piano. The central portrait depicts "Ann" (2022) - a contemporary representation of the artist's sister, seated on a foldaway chair.
Installation view of “Ann” (2022), by Eugene Palmer, in the Georgian Gallery. Oil on canvas, 150 x 100 cm. This recent acquisition went on public display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 18 February 2023. Photo credit: Carol Thompson.

This striking single-figure portrait features within a wider series of representational paintings rendered in oils by the celebrated Caribbean diasporan artist throughout 2021 and 2022, collectively titled “Standing Still.”

Ann (2022), by Eugene Palmer. Oil on canvas, 150 x 100 cm. Photo: Carol Ann Dixon.

A selection of seven additional works from the series are currently on view in Wolverhampton as a temporary exhibition in the Focus Gallery (18 February – 8 May 2023).

As an admirer of Palmer’s visual storytelling, I was very pleased to write a short interpretation narrative about Standing Still – appraising and analysing the individual, paired and grouped representations of the artist’s family members and wider kinship network depicted at important social gatherings; including a wedding reception and an informal intergenerational get-together held outdoors during mid-summer (see, for example, the diptych Late Evening, 2022).

My essay, “Standing Still, by Eugene Palmer – The Poetics of Portraiture,” is currently available as a pick-up sheet for members of the visiting public to help contextualise and convey further details about Palmer’s approach to figuration and the symbolism detailed within his thought-provoking body of work.

As the title suggests, themes about quietude, reflection and the visual poetics of resilience are discussed, in addition to considerations about the artworks’ wider social and cultural modalities. Several recurring motifs focused on representations of identity, belonging, sense of place, multiculturalism, relationality, intersectionalities of race and gender, intergenerational dynamics, diaspora and the legacies of empire are all foregrounded. The observations are documented via close examination of facial expressions, hand gestures, skin tones, stances, family resemblances and differences, characteristics of individuality and togetherness seen in the outfit styling choices, accessorisations and relative positionalities within (and beyond) each canvas – especially when thinking about the family as a microcosm of wider society: locally; nationally; and globally.

Self-portrait with Grandchild (Rory), 2021, by Eugene Palmer. Oil on canvas, 178 x 176 cm. Photo: Carol Ann Dixon.

Standing Still at Wolverhampton resonates closely with earlier family-focused portraiture series by Palmer – such as “Baby Shower” (2017/18) and “In Between Black and White” (2018), both presented at the James Hockey and Foyer Galleries, University for the Creative Arts, as part of the artist’s solo exhibition Eugene Palmer: Didn’t It Rain: New Paintings (UCA Farnham, Surrey, 2018).

“I see my work as participating in a cultural discourse. It is no more or no less than another voice, another point of view, another position from which to engage with that ongoing discursive process which is to do with asking questions about art. At some level you could argue that the work has a social dimension. You could also argue that the way meaning is derived from the work is closer to poetry than to essays.”
– Eugene Palmer, contemporary visual artist (b. 1955, Kingston, Jamaica)

Source: Eugene Palmer – Studio interview, in conversation with Carol Ann Dixon (2017)

For further details about visiting Wolverhampton Art Gallery to view this free exhibition, and other works on display at the Litchfield Street site, please see:

You can also listen to Eugene Palmer’s insightful perspectives on creating all the paintings featured in Standing Still, discussed in relation to his wider oeuvre, in conversation with Bob Chaundy via the Considering Art podcast at: (Duration: 36 minutes).

Standing Still, by Eugene Palmer continues at Wolverhampton Art Gallery through to May 8th, 2023.

Exhibition view of group portraits from the series “Standing Still” by Eugene Palmer at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Photo: Carol Ann Dixon.


Eugene Palmer’s website:

Eugene Palmer’s biography and portfolio of recent works, presented online via Ed Cross Fine Art Gallery:

Eugene Palmer (2022) Our Restless Hearts, Art Journal, Vol. 81 (3), pp. 8-21,

Carol Ann Dixon (2018) ‘Eugene Palmer: New Paintings’, Museum Geographies (Review of Eugene Palmer: Didn’t It Rain, 27 January – 24 March 2018, James Hockey and Foyer Galleries, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, UK)

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