Artist Grace Lau invites the public to get a free portrait taken inside a reimagined 19th century Chinese portrait studio at Solaris in St Leonards on Sea. Each participant will receive a digital copy of the photograph. This event takes place between 29 May – 8 June 2024.

Book your free portrait here:

Portraits In a Chinese Studio is based on Grace’s research into studio portraits made by 19th-century and early 20th-century Western photographers in China. Lau realised that Chinese subjects were placed in a Victorian studio setting as ‘exotic subjects’ and ‘unusual beings’. Lau’s project highlights this relationship and reverses the roles for 21st century participants.

Portraits In a Chinese Studio was originally presented in Hastings in 2005 and returns to St Leonards later this month. Grace Lau hopes that some of the original participants will return for new portraits nearly 20 years later.

The portrait studio is made of ‘mock’ traditional Chinese furniture, with a decorative backdrop and accessories. Grace Lau acts as Creative Director, alongside photographer Richard Chung. People will be asked to pose in a similar manner to Victorian studio portraits. However, in contrast to their historical setting, those having their portraits taken are encouraged to keep their modern-day accessories, such as mobile phones, shopping bags, and clothing.

Grace Lau comments:
Through this project, I am making a comment on Imperialist visions of the ‘exotic’ Chinese. We want people to think about how people have been represented in portraits over time, and today – and placing people in this constructed historic setting and taking their portrait is a great way to start that conversation.

This event takes place between 29 May – 8 June 2024
Solaris, 76 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 0EJ
Open Wednesday to Friday, 1–5pm & Saturday 11am–5pm

Portraits In a Chinese Studio is part of Co-Creating Public Space, a project led by John Hansard Gallery, inviting communities to creatively engage with artists to rethink the use of public space, with funding from Arts Council England.