Photograph: Chris Dawes

William Foyle (born 1993) lives and works in London

2017   Self-Portraits, Ross's, Belfast, Northern Ireland
2015   Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London
2012   Gallery 8, Duke Street St James’s, London

2016   Matter & Light Fine Art, Boston, USA
2013    Duns Castle, Scotland
2012    Royal Academy, London, Marie Curie Cancer Private View of the Summer Exhibition
2012    Duns Castle, Scotland
2009    Partridge Fine Art, Bond Street, London
2009    Air Gallery, Dover Street, London

The Ruth Borchard Collection
In private collections in U.S.A, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Monaco, Ireland & UK.

William Foyle’s early life was immersed in music. However, it was in painting that he found expression for the world around him; music was merely the backdrop. His ability was recognised when he was awarded an art scholarship to Stowe and where he became the youngest pupil ever to receive the Drawing Prize. He later entered the Edinburgh College of Art.

The son of an English Hungarian father and an Irish mother he spent regular periods in Antrim and Donegal absorbing the landscape and the ever changing light. As a professional painter, Foyle has an intellectual approach to his work and travels extensively in Europe visiting museums and galleries and drawing on the experiences and people that he meets.

William Foyle has successfully shown in solo exhibitions at two London galleries, Gallery 8, Duke Street, St. James’s and The Royal College of Art, but perhaps the greatest endorsement of his work is a picture purchased in 2016 by the distinguished Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Collection. Foyle’s work is held in collections in USA, France, Monaco, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain and the UK.


The apparent simplicity of self-portraiture conceals one of the most complex genres in which an artist works, one which has many motivations and which establishes a very particular relationship between the artist and the viewer.

This exhibition by William Foyle is made up of a group of self-portraits, most of which were completed over a short period of around twelve months, forming a particularly intense and revealing process of self-analysis. Nearly every image concentrates solely on the artist’s head, pushing it into direct confrontation with the viewer on a lifelike scale. There are rarely other distractions, such as studio props or compositions that include a fuller figure, to distract from the intensity of this engagement.

Yet there are constantly shifting dynamics across this series of paintings, drawings and prints, evoking particular associations and suggesting an accompanying change in their mood. The artist’s own frustration with the unavoidably slow narrowing-in on the single ideal image can be sensed throughout the exhibition as he moves closer to us or further away, or stares back from a new angle as if trying to see something that has not yet been captured on the sheet or canvas.

There are a range of media used and some images appear to be quickly, spontaneously achieved, while at other times a slower accumulation of the paint surface demonstrates another change in Foyle’s method. Occasionally there is more concern to create a likeness, which is then almost obliterated in other works. But the control evident across these self-portraits, the awareness of mark-making and of the relationship of the image to the mark, is particularly striking given the artist’s age at the time. 

This is a direct and highly personal body of work, a journey to which the viewer is drawn in, and which also demonstrates a great interest in the history and the nature of self-portraiture itself. 


Painting is Dead!  New Technologies Rule! This was the attitude of so many curators in the 20th century who were trying to be so contemporary.  As we all know painting is very much alive and relevant in the 21st century.  The wealth of experience, thought and feeling generated by painting still manages to amaze and enthrall.   

A new generation of young painters have emerged who have embraced the medium of painting, drawing and printmaking. Many of these young talents have revisited the use and power of figuration; so out of fashion in the last half of the 20th century. William Foyle is one of those painters.  Using figuration, he explores feelings of what art meant and could mean.     His passion for painting, drawing and monotypes were not nurtured at Art School.  He wanted to learn more. Looking at and studying contemporary and historical painting, he travelled around Europe visiting great Museums and Art Galleries. He drew and worked from the visual world around him.  This is what spoke to him.

William honed his technical skills by objective study and observation.  His passion for music and literature have also had a huge influence on him and are in part the foundation blocks of his talent. Surrounding himself with the music of Bartok, Liszt, Janacek, Messiaen, Reich, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Terry Riley together with his appreciation of the writings of Dostoevsky, Kafka, Jung, Tolstoy, van Gogh's letters and Turgenev open up a rich, complex and intriguing dialogue.  His facility for drawing and painting gives him the ability to use it or not, depending on the work and experiences he is articulating. This means he works from a position of strength, always being able to put into action his skills, if the work demands it.

The present body of work, paintings and monotypes use a subtle refined means of execution to explore their themes and motifs. In the paintings; tonality, with a hint of colour. In the  monotypes; black and white is scraped through to expose the paper which reveals the image.   Ghostly figures emerge with an economy of line.  A gesture here, a gesture there, reveal the figure like some distant memory.  Ghostly, almost skeletal figures haunt ones imagination yet fascinate one’s sensibilities.

In the paintings, the figures emerge and recede into the surface of the canvas, their presence almost felt than seen. They emerge from the canvas as though through the mists of time, revealed by layers and washes of paint. The luminescent forms hover and float within the boundaries of the canvas, both materialising and dematerialising their sense of being. The known and unknown in a dialogue and a struggle to come to existence. The themes and motifs  are sometimes upsetting and disturbing yet, compelling and beautiful at the same time.  This is the work of a young talent whose vision and work  are expanding rapidly and exhibits a maturity beyond his age.  I have experienced a great deal by contemplating and engaging with the work.  I encourage you to spend time with the painting and monotypes which, on initial viewing, seem to be grasped quickly but contain a slow release which require repeat viewing and contemplation."


To have the ambition to be an artist of consequence requires dedication. Like great musicians, great sportsmen or indeed mystics - all life becomes secondary to one’s calling. Mentally, physically, spiritually, such people enter a world of their own. For a painter this world must be as much intellectual, as technical, for an able artist however capable, must also engage in intense thought, always enquiring and experimenting. If hand, eye and mind work in unison there is every chance that the resultant works of art will be worth looking at.

I have known William Foyle since he was very young - in fact, not so long ago. Never have I met any artist of his age - and he is certainly an artist - so utterly dedicated to his profession. Indeed to me it has been a real privilege to observe his endeavours. William has looked deeply at several painters of consequence to him, late Goya, Bacon, Freud and Kossoff yet his works are far from derivative. He turns his whole mind and attention onto his subjects and agonises to reproduce faithfully these observations. In this exhibition the portraits are remarkably penetrating while the interiors; with their delicate orchestration of light are remarkable. Foyle is fascinating and his future wants watching.


"There is quality and meaningfulness in these varied works by the young artist William Foyle who shows considerable talent and promise. Portrait heads executed in vigorous and vibrant impasto reveal an assurance with the materials and methods of painting that he is rapidly developing."