Open Frequency 2009: Rose Wylie selected by Cathy Lomax

Open Frequency 2009: Rose Wylie selected by Cathy Lomax Rose Wylie, Penelope Girls (group), 2007. Paper, coloured pencil, collage. 60 cm x 64 cm. Credit: Rose Wylie

Cathy Lomax profiles the work of Rose Wylie

Rose Wylie makes large-scale paintings and drawings that teem with strangely familiar characters and situations. Her inspiration comes from a dizzying array of sources, something that has led to a rather apt 'image magpie' tag in previous reviews. Her images are mentally rather than physically gathered before being reproduced in paint with a disarming air of naivety to produce vibrant works that never fail to make me smile.

A recent series features a beautifully simplified Penelope Cruz from 'Volver' (2007), sitting in profile, her lollipop head balanced on top of a curvaceous torso and spindly legs. Sometimes turning to the side she mimics a figure from an early Egyptian painting, looking straight ahead she could be a pin-up girl in a cartoon strip. Swans Reflecting Elephants (a group show at Kate McGarry in Vyner Street, London, 5 July - 3 August 2008), featured some of Rose's huge canvases including 'Brown Berlin Bears Head' (2008) which revived the girl motif (simplified to a dark red silhouette with a shock of blonde hair) alongside a huge bear's head, while 'Tucan, Tin Bird and Spiders' (2007) pitched oversized pink birds against a background formed from a repeated pattern of spiders and slashes of thick cream paint.

This basic primitivism gets to the nub of Wylie's subject matter, distilling it to its essence and celebrating it, with luxurious dabbed and stroked paint. Because of their simplified, exaggerated forms and repeated motifs her paintings and drawings often take on the appearance of animations or what she has called 'repeats'. 'Some of my drawings repeat… there are multiple girls, but I plot different leg movements, as flick books might'.1 This is true of the 'Penelope Cruz' series (2007) where sitting on a bench in numerous drawings her legs shift and her head turns. This process of simplification can be read as a form of caricature, something that is reinforced by the addition of occasional lines of text and speech bubbles.

Wylie's subject matter is often drawn from contemporary culture: 'I like working from memory, often using pin-ups, film stars, footballers etc, as they are shared contemporary gods, outside of art or religion' says Wylie.2 Alongside the iconic Yasser Arafat, Penelope Cruz and premier league footballers there are the personal day-to-day images such as a girl eating a chocolate biscuit. They are all there because they are part of the tapestry of visual imagery that Wylie encounters everyday – the real sharing the same space as characters in print and on film.

1 'Portfolio: Rose Wylie', Garageland 6: Beauty, November 2007
2 ibid.

Cathy Lomax, January 2009

View Cathy Lomax's profile >

Artist's biography

Rose Wylie (b. Kent, 1934) completed her MA at the Royal College of Art in 1981 and since this time she has continued to exhibit prolifically across the UK. She has recently shown in a solo capacity at Wear What You Like, Transition Gallery (London, 2008) and Rose Wylie, Paintings at UNION (London, 2006). Selected group exhibitions include: Swans Reflecting Elephants, Kate MacGarry Gallery (London, 2008); EAST International (Norwich, 2007); One Love: The Football Art Prize(Salford, 2006). Her work is included in many public art collections, for example the Contemporary Art Society, Arts Council England, York City Art Gallery, Arario (Seoul, Korea) and Deal (Dallas, USA).

About Cathy Lomax

Cathy Lomax's curatorial interests are very varied; her projects are drawn together by a theme which is generally quite tangible and is often based in aspects of popular or everyday culture. Most of her curatorial work takes place at Transition Gallery which is the space that she set up in 2002 after finishing her Fine Art MA at Central St Martins.

Lomax is also a practising artist; she likes to draw all the strands of her practice together which means she will often make work for projects that she is curating. In her curated shows she likes to mix together emerging and more established artists often combining practitioners from different strands of the arts. Previous projects have included fine artists alongside illustrators, fashion photographers, costume makers etc etc.

The educational background of the artist is irrelevant and she often works with outsider artists and practitioners who haven't followed the traditional art school route. 'I like to relate my curated projects to where thay are taking place and generally avoid traditional 'white cube' style exhibitions.'

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.