Exploring the limitations of representation - the difference between a photograph and a painting, or a picture of someone and a portrait for example - is a central preoccupation of much contemporary art. Elizabeth Peyton's art is no exception, yet what is almost unique in her work is the way in which she investigates the language of representation through the use of sentiment. In her lovingly-made small portrait paintings of friends, family and the famous, Peyton endows all her images with an innate adolescent romanticism that unites them all in an intimate world steeped in nostalgia.
Like portraits from a family photo album or cuttings from a schoolgirl's scrapbook, Peyton's subjects, though often familiar to us all, are subsumed into her own intimate world of a romanticised humanity. From her portraits of Napoleon to those of androgynous rock stars or the British royal princes, Peyton's often Hockney-esque images convey a warm and comforting familiarity that is in fact pure artifice. In this 1994 portrait of Andy Warhol's friend and business manager Fred Hughes, taken from a photograph of the androgynous-looking Hughes in Paris in the 1970s, Peyton presents an image steeped in period elegance. Such devotional portraiture shows Peyton, like Warhol before her, not only reinvigorating the art of portraiture but also creating a lexicon of very private icons by re-personalising images belonging to the public sphere of our vast image-drenched culture.