If you haven’t seen this show already, well its to late because it finished on 11th February. Rose Wylie is something of an inspiration. She painted in relative obscurity her whole life and then in her 70s suddenly hit the big time. She is now 84.
So I went along to her solo show at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery (who are the Sacklers and how do I become one?). There are some themes to her paintings. They are large. They are painted on unprimed canvas a lot of which is left exposed. She uses thick rapid strokes of paint. And they look like the painting of a manic child. They are also, funny. I like them.
They fall into the category of paintings I admire but would never actually own, not least because I have no walls in my house big enough. Another theme is that they often have a comic strip type quality and include words in them, that reminded me of Basquiat.
You are greeted when you come in with a large chubby pink ballerina prancing of the phrase “Will I win”. This really sets the town for the show (which had the delightful title of Quack Quack).
This is a well hung show and a trick they use, which the paintings are presumably designed for is hang them round corners. The first one of these is called Yellow Strip (above) and is a series of yellow clad footballers in various action posses with a football. It does read like some strange comic strip.
It would seem Wylie is a fan of football as next to this is a piece called Arsenal v Tottenham and is a plan picture of a stadium with the players depicted as circles with numbers. I particularly like the way she has done the seats in rapid swirly arcs.
Another round the corner is what seems to be two paintings joined together called Ivy and the Green Twin and Ivy and the Red Twin (above). I suspect these were designed to be presented in this way. They have a dancing and joyful quality but what I particularly like is the mad cat, sitting centrally and dividing the two pictures. Wylie’s particular forte is mad strangely proportioned animals which can be seen particularly well in Park Duck with its enormous flat duck.
My two favourite pictures though were hung back to back, blocking one of the connecting galleries. They were I think painted with this space in mind. Memories of the second world war appear in several of Wylie’s work and they make and appearance here in this piece called “Air Raid and Round Pound” (above). It contrasts nicely with a sort of childish remembrance of the ghastliness of an air-raid, over the humour of these dogs and ducks scampering around as though nothing is happening. The pond and the building by the way are both the Serpentine.
The work that made me laugh out loud as soon as I saw it (and provoked a similar reaction in my wife when I showed her the postcard) was this one, with an enormous mouth, about to consume a Choco Liebnitz. As a fan of these particular chocolatey biscuits it was an idea I immediately warmed to. This is another forte of Wylie’s I think, she conveys the humorous sense of something very well.
Also I have a solo show coming up in April in the Indo bar in Whitechapel. More details soon.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.