The Diary: Keira Knightley; Absolutely Fabulous; Tony Blair; Ben Kingsley; Hatchet Job of the Year Award


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The Independent Culture

Keira aura

A portrait of Keira Knightley, standing in a murky backstreet with mascara running down her cheeks, will go on show in London on Monday. The noir-ish work, a seamier take on the English-rose actress than usual, has been painted by Stuart Pearson Wright. The artist, 36, who won the BP Portrait Award in 2001 for his infamous painting of six presidents of the British Academy sitting around a table with a dead chicken on it, has worked with Knightley before. The pair met in the stalls at a production of Gaslight at the Old Vic in 2007, after which Wright persuaded her to pose for him. The resulting work – a two-screen video installation, Maze – featured the artist chasing the actress, who was dressed in an elaborate Elizabethan gown, towering wig and pearls, around Longleat's maze for 12 minutes.

The new portrait will go on show at Riflemaker, London, alongside a self portrait of the artist as the Bard, and portraits of blonde society women plastered with artificial smiles and men covered in tattoos. Next Monday, 16 January, Wright will discuss the exhibition with the actress Fiona Shaw, whom he drew in 2006 alongside actors including Daniel Radcliffe, Rosamund Pike and Ian McKellen in a bra, for his show "Most People are Other People".

Click here or on "View Gallery" for more pictures of Pearson Wright's work

Fab five

Alongside various celebrity cameos, the return of Absolutely Fabulous has also given several up-and-coming comic actresses a turn in the spotlight. The second episode featured Rose Johnson, Camille Ucan and Hannah Dodd as the long-suffering interns of Patsy, Bubble and Saffy, respectively. Comedy fans will know the names as three-fifths of the sketch troupe Lady Garden, who made their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008. The other two members are Eleanor Thom and Beattie Edmondson, better known as the daughter of Adrian Edmondson and Edina herself, Jennifer Saunders. The pair will have their turn in the Ab Fab Olympics special, to be broadcast later this year. Thom will play a receptionist while "the back of Beattie's head" will be seen as she plays a waitress. As Edina might say, it's not about what you know, but who you know, darling.

The Blair picture project

The face is obscured – is that a splatter of whitewash? – but it's still, somehow, instantly Tony Blair. John Keane's abstract portrait of the former PM appearing at the Chilcot Inquiry forms the centrepiece of his new exhibition at Flowers, London. Keane, who was the Imperial War Museum's official artist during the Gulf War, was apparently once asked to paint Blair for the National Portrait Gallery, but the commission never came to pass; his portraits of Mo Mowlam, and Bill Morris, the first black general secretary of a trade union in England, do however hang in the gallery. Other works in the new show, which opens on Thursday, feature the Tahrir Square uprising and the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Knight watch

A decade has passed since Ben Kingsley was knighted but he is still delighted by his title. The actor famously asks producers, co-stars and journalists alike to call him Sir Ben, but it's only because he feels unloved. "When I am in New York or California, everyone will come up to me and smile and shake my hand and say, 'I love your work', and that is really gratifying. In England they just look at you quietly," the actor told the interview website The Talks. "However that seeming total lack of enthusiasm for what you're doing is suddenly balanced by this title. Suddenly the Prime Minister and the Queen say, 'oh, we know you are here'. It is a wonderful balance, a beautiful hug from England."

Hatchet faces

Not content with pointing out the sexual shortcomings of authors at the Bad Sex Awards, critics are lining up for another night of book-bashing at the Hatchet Job of the Year Award. The new addition to the prize circuit is unlikely to be welcomed by authors as the angriest and most irreverent reviews of the year are exhumed and extolled. "It's a celebration of book reviewing", says Anna Baddeley, editor of The Omnivore, a reviews aggregation site which is behind the award. "We're not promoting cruel and malicious writing but there's too much deference and politeness. There's room for more honesty and wit." The winning critic will be named on 7 February and rewarded with a year's supply of potted shrimps.