Jonathan Yeo is one of today's leading portrait artists, responsible for capturing many top cultural and political figures in paint. The likes of Michael Parkinson, Erin O'Connor and Rupert Murdoch adorn the walls of this highly anticipated retrospective, as well as a new six-foot high depiction of Damien Hirst.
The canvas shows the artist dressed in a chemical dry suit and holding a mask – a reference to his formaldehyde creations. Yeo worked with Hirst to decide on the composition of the portrait. The commanding pose is an ironic reflection of Hirst's perceived position as 'the dark overlord' of the contemporary art world.
Yeo intends for the piece to retain an element of ambiguity; the mask having a broad range of possible connotations such as the military, scuba diving and riot control. He says that, even to those who recognise it as artistic equipment, 'it's still not entirely clear if he is making something or whether he is being pickled in one of his own tanks'.
This is the first display dedicated solely to the painter's work and, as well as the line up of well-known figures, it will include the drawings he made of the party leaders on the 2001 general election campaign trail and private studies of his family. Yeo is rare for the fact that he always paints directly from life and many of his subjects have never sat for a portrait before.