The women’s room

Rose Wylie comes to Pen­zance

Cornwall Life - - INSIDE -

Well, well, it seems there’s an­other great fe­male artist that has come out of the wood­work that we didn’t pre­vi­ously know about, but has thank­fully now been ‘dis­cov­ered’. This de­spite the fact that Rose Wylie at­tended the Royal Col­lege of Art and is now in her eight­ies and has been pro­duc­ing art her en­tire adult life. There’s a sim­i­lar pat­tern de­vel­op­ing here – think Phyl­l­ida Bar­low.

It begs the ques­tion how many more, great fe­male artists are miss­ing in the ros­ter of Bri­tish art. Per­haps the time is ripe for a se­ri­ous reap­praisal of our art his­tory to un­cover all those ‘undis­cov­ered’ ie: dis­missed voices, key among them fe­male voices. New­lyn Art Gallery and The Ex­change Pen­zance have been try­ing to counter the dis­crep­ancy with fe­male artists with their women led shows this sum­mer.

The ini­tial im­pres­sion when en­ter­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion space in New­lyn Art Gallery dis­play­ing Wylie’s paint­ings are of scale, colour and an abun­dance of im­agery. Th­ese are big works painted in a faux naïve man­ner. Play­ing Well is a 2016 paint­ing de­pict­ing a shaggy, fuzzy, blonde

‘I found some­thing mildly hys­ter­i­cal and de­motic in ‘Wear­ing a check skirt’. A group of women, or per­haps the same in­di­vid­ual’

fe­male ten­nis player, in a kind of War­ho­lesque, dou­ble-take dip­tych, in­volved in a ten­nis match. The fig­ures are com­i­cal and car­toon­ish like Char­lie Brown, but in a more ex­is­ten­tial and es­o­teric way.

Wylie de­fines her depth of field - fore­ground, mid­dle ground and back­ground - with a clever use of dou­ble ex­po­sure, line and colour, no easy trick to pull off.

I found some­thing mildly hys­ter­i­cal and de­motic in Wear­ing a Check Skirt. A group of women, or per­haps the same in­di­vid­ual, I imag­ined as a Step­ford Wife au­tom­a­ton about to morph into a flesh eat­ing zom­bie à la some South Park, Twi­light Zone, type deal. Is there

a ref­er­ence to Mar­cel Duchamp’s fa­mous paint­ing Nude De­scend­ing a Stair­case (No2) in this work?

The oil on can­vas work Kill

Bill (Film Notes) from 2007 does de­pict macabre vi­o­lence at its heart, via the Ja­cobean cine­matic au­teur Quentin Tarantino’s

Kung Fu/Western, Sonny Chiba meets Ser­gio Leone, blood fest of the epony­mous ti­tle. The artist here pro­duces a flatly three-di­men­sional im­agery once again by way of space, colour and min­i­mal per­spec­tive, which sub­tly moves from one image to the other. This paint­ing is fun, friv­o­lous, vi­o­lent and dis­turb­ing in all the best tra­di­tions of Grand Guig­nol.

Good Queen Bess is on full dis­play in Queen of Pan­sies

(Dots), a com­plex and ex­pres­sive work fully ver­bose with text abound­ing.

While the purple and yel­low jux­ta­po­si­tions within the pan­sies seem to ref­er­ence ab­stract art, I love the lit­eral ref­er­ence ‘can but does not take re­venge’.

I en­vi­sioned here a char­ac­ter from the 1988 black com­edy Heathers or more a more re­cent film shown at New­lyn Film­house Thor­ough­breds, or per­haps Mi­randa Richard­son’s ex­quis­ite turn as Quee­nie in Black­ad­der 2. The paint­ing does cer­tainly ref­er­ence Marcus Gheer­aerts the Younger ‘Queen El­iz­a­beth I’ (The Ditch­ley por­trait) from 1592, af­ter a man­ner any­way.

The word pan­sies it­self, writ­ten on the can­vas, drifts off into that most French of hu­mour, the pun, in the fol­low­ing words: pen­sées pen­sées pen­sées (thoughts thoughts thoughts). A fem­i­nine re­frain deftly mov­ing from idle flow­ers to the ti­tle of the philoso­pher Blaise Pas­cal’s 17th Cen­tury work. This text is writ­ten in paint, but there is also other text writ­ten into the mar­gins of the can­vas, as though it has been van­dalised with graf­fiti.

There is a temp­ta­tion here to link Wylie with Jean Michel Basquiat, but I feel it is a lazy com­par­i­son. I like Basquiat’s art and I am glad he got him­self dis­cov­ered. But I think Wylie’s work de­serves to ex­ist on its own merit: it has staked out a claim on its own unique ter­ri­tory.

Red Indian His­tory Paint­ing

is some dev­il­ish, con­tem­po­rary, Bayeux Ta­pes­try on acid, de­pict­ing the Euro­pean con­quest of the Amer­i­cas and also the trav­els of the Trans- At­lantic slave trade. Wylie proves here that she isn’t afraid of the big­ger sub­jects of his­tory. The Pil­grim Fa­thers’ Mayflower is rel­e­gated to a small ship at sea, the right side of the can­vas is taken up by an in­dige­nous Amer­i­can on a horse, out­siz­ing ev­ery­thing in the com­po­si­tion and main­tain­ing its po­si­tion as the fo­cal point of the can­vas.

For all of my pere­gri­na­tions and sup­po­si­tions into the realm of pop­u­lar cul­ture here, Rose Wylie is a painter and th­ese are all fiercely, painterly art­works. Wylie is a fre­netic, an­ar­chic artist; ex­pres­sion­is­tic, mis­chievous,

‘Wylie’s paint­ings are of scale, colour and an abun­dance of im­agery. Th­ese are big works painted in a faux naïve man­ner.’

metic­u­lous and se­ri­ous. She is a won­der­ful an­ti­dote to our cur­rent age of pix­i­la­tion and digi­ti­sa­tion. For all of her ad­vanc­ing years the paint­ings on dis­play here feel very con­tem­po­rary and now. Art is alive and well and this is proper art, as art should be. Let’s see a com­puter conjure up th­ese images. Up yours ro­bot!

Rose Wylie: His­tory Paint­ing con­tin­ues un­til 15 Septem­ber at at New­lyn Art Gallery, New Road, New­lyn TR18 5PZ and The Ex­change, Princes Street, Pen­zance TR18 2NL new­ly­nart­gallery.co.uk

Kill Bill (Film Notes) (2007) 180×308cm

ABOVE:Pink Skater, (Will I Win, Will I Win), (2015) 208×329cm

BE­LOW:Park Dogs & Air Raid (2017) 393x331cm

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