Wendy Elia works in series that explore the futile quest for truth and interrogate the legacy of postmodernism: Derrida claimed if we had understood we had misunderstood; Baudrillard provoked us with the assertion the gulf war never happened; we were consumed by the society of spectacle where images proliferated virally and news and entertainment disintegrated into infotainment. Nothing was real except the hyperreal; identities were fluid and shifty. Elia's lack of a singular painting language aims to mimic this dislocation. Through constantly re-inventing herself as an artist, she prevents us from taking a singular viewing position.
In 'Half-Naked' and 'The Visit' life-size clothed, naked or semi-naked portraits of Elia’s friends and family confront our voyeurism and ask questions about painting’s relationship to authenticity and illusion; her self-portrait 'I Could Have Been A Contender' lays her ageing body open to our scrutiny. Their content is a testament to the artist’s exploration of enforced domesticity; of the repetitive grind of work, child-rearing, care for the elderly, that creates a sense of entrapment within the home studio. The architecture and fittings of the latter – the boarded up fireplace and the laminate floor – are recurring motifs. Within those portraits lie smaller paintings: a network of allusions to familial relations, previous art works, and art history. These and Elia’s focus on the desire for escapism through mediated experiences (tv, the internet) prompted 'It Will Happen When You Least Expect It'.
Here are paintings that try to act like photographs, that would defy the uniqueness of the art object, but they fail, caught out by their own nuances. Because these works are painterly, seducing us with their high key color palette and intimate scale, drawing us into their little worlds. If they infiltrated our consciousness as photographs, as part of the endless circulation of images sold, copied, downloaded, uploaded, overloaded… they take hold of us all over again as paintings. Even the most repellent subjects are rendered ambiguous: a terrorist morphing into Jesus, 'In Fidelity'; the delicate stillness of hung men in 'Elsewhere'.
Through these continual shifts in painting language and juxtapositions of imagery Wendy Eiia's work asks ….In the enjoyment of the ironic and in the search for the iconic have we forgotten how to feel.
©Marie-Anne Mancio, 2011
Qualifications and training
- 1983 BA Degree, St Martins School of Art, London
- 2012 B-side Olympic Portrait Commission for Weymouth and Portland, Weymouth & Portland, Bus Shelters, Walls, Shopping Centres
- 2009 It will happen when you least expect it, Nellie Dean, Dean St, London W1D 3SU
- 1995 What is truth, Tram Depot Gallery, London
- 1994 Cat's Cradle, Cafe Gallery, london SE 16
- 1992 Wendy Elia - Paintings, Portland Design Associates, London
- 2012 Head & Whole 2: Talking Heads, Abbey Walk Gallery, Grimsby
- 2011 Head and Whole, Abbey Walk gallery, Grimsby
- 2011 Macguffin, ww gallery, hackney london
- 2011 Bp portrait award exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, londonWC2H0HE
- 2010 threadneedle prize exhibition, Mall Galleries, The Mall. London SW1
- 2010 BP Portrait Award 2010, National Portrait Gallery, London WC2H OHE
- 2009 bodyscapes, PROJECT SPACE @ THE MULBERRY CENTRE, weymouth (more info)
- 2009 Bodyscapes Exhibition, Study Gallery, Poole
- 2008 Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Mall Gallery/ Federation of British Artists, London
- 2007 Sovereign European Art Prize 2007, Bonhams, London w1
- 2007 Sovereign European Art Prize 2007, Rochelle School, London E2
- 1997 Love Crazy, collaboration with performance artist Marie-Anne Mancio, Quicksilver Gallery (Middlesex University), London
Competitions, prizes and awards
- 2011 Bp portrait award exhibition, national portrait gallery, london
- 2010 lynn Painter- Stainers prize exhibition, Painters hall, londonEC4V 2AD
- 2010 threadneedle prize finalist, mall galleries, the mall.london
- 2010 threadneedle prize exhibition, mall galleries, london
- 2010 bp portrait award finalist, National portrait Gallery, London
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