Invisible Portraits – Southampton City Art Gallery

Invisible Portraits, showing from 30 September 2022 – 14 January 2023, is an exhibition by Artist Lucy Ash highlighting the LGBTIQ+ community through a series of abstract portraits, celebrating diversity, bravery and forgotten figures, making LGBTIQ+ history visible.


Lucy Ash is a British artist whose work is concerned with creating visibility and shifting perception of the LGBTIQ+ community. She incorporates personal narrative with ideas of time, rhythm, and concealment to represent an emotional response to love, death, loss, and injustice.


“For over a year I’ve been in my studio immersed in the lives of LGBTIQ+ artists and activists who matter to me. I’ve had the thrill of relating artworks in Southampton City Art Gallery’s collection to abstract portraits and film I’m developing. My 2022 exhibition will tell an important story and make visible LGBTIQ+ lives that have historically been hidden”.



Lucy Ash and the City Art Gallery have invited people from the local community in Southampton, along with leading LGBTIQ+ figures, to co-create two large artworks titled Portraits of Inspiration.

Each participant was given a small canvas section, along with paints and brushes, on which they were asked to paint an image of an LGBTIQ+ person they find inspiring. Lucy will assemble the sections into two large artworks, each comprising of 323 individual portraits.

These artworks are designed to reinforce the message that LGBTIQ+ progress is a collective effort and is achieved by reaching out and engaging with the community. The idea for a large community artwork comes out of Lucy Ash’s practice of painting a small section of a large artwork each day – a visual diary. The two community artworks will be intrinsic to this exhibition.

‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts’


Keith Haring

Painted by Simon Helm

Betty Gallacher

Painted by Eileen Irvin

Billie Jean King

Painted by Noni

The Champion

Painted by Emily Waind

David Hockney

Painted by Peter McKintosh

Born To Be Wilde

Painted by Suzy Vinall

Alan Turing

Painted by Anna Cole

David Bowie

Painted by Paul Burston

Wilfred Owen

Painted by Dave Lewis

James Baldwin

Painted by Oliver Rowe

Jan Gooding, Ex-Chair of Stonewall

Painted by Poppy Cumming-Spain

Kevin Conroy

Painted by Ollie D

Mark Ashton

Painted by Maya Gibbons

Stephen Fry

Painted by Ben Rose

Events, talks and workshops


29 September, 2022, 5-6pm:

Pre-launch event: In conversation with Lucy Ash and Tom Sutcliffe.

Join artist Lucy Ash in conversation with journalist and arts broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe to explore the themes, ideas and processes behind her latest exhibition Invisible Portraits.

Tom Sutcliffe is a British journalist and broadcaster, currently presenting on Radio Four’s Front Row and Start the Week.

This talk will last around 45 minutes to an hour. Those attending will be very welcome to join us in the gallery afterwards for the preview of this exhibition, which begins at 6pm.

Click here to book your tickets…


5 November, 2022:

Dr Clifford Williams will be hosting a lecture on a LGBT history of Southampton.

Dr Clifford Williams has delved extensively into the archives to unearth some of Southampton’s LGBT history. Learn about the gay Southampton barber who ended up being recorded in a pamphlet written by a condemned man in 1750; hear about the year the city council welcomed the Campaign for Homosexual Equality Conference after other cities and towns refused them a venue; discover how, compared to Portsmouth and much of the UK, Southampton in the mid 1970s was comparatively a good place to be gay/lesbian. The talk will look at some of the documents and photographs associated with the city’s LGBT past.

Click here to book your tickets…


7 January, 2023:

Abstract portraiture in response to Invisible Portraits.

Get creative in this accessible workshop where you will learn a range of techniques exploring colour, composition & gestural mark making to create an abstract portrait.  You’ll be lead by fine artist & tutor Emma Morrissey who will guide you through each step of the process in a fun and relaxed workshop. Suitable for both beginners and those looking to improve their skills.

This event will celebrate the final day of Invisible Portraits and take inspiration from the exhibition.

Click here to book your tickets…



In 2019 Southampton City Art Gallery acquired ‘Iris 02’ for the City’s permanent collection.

‘Iris 02’ was part of Lucy’s exhibition ‘Echoes’ which was on display at Turner Sims from 22 January until 16 March 2018 and was a response to the melodies, lyrics and themes of the jazz musician Trish Clowes’ album My Iris. The painting considers the dimensions and symbolism of Iris, the Greek Rainbow Goddess of the sky and the sea, and messenger of the Gods.

As a gay artist and activist, Lucy has made sure to connect the rainbow of Iris to the rainbow Pride flag and so consequently, the spots are limited to just the six colours.

© Lucy Ash



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