A Review of Rose Wylie: Lolita's House at David Zwirner, London
Rose Wylie is everywhere! Virtually unknown 10 years ago, Rose Wylie's work can now be found in prominent collections throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia from Tate and the Serpentine in London to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
Represented by blue-chip gallery David Zwirner, the 83-year-old painter continues to receive awards and embark on museum shows met with critical acclaim. Alongside female artists like Phyllida Barlow representing Britain at the last Venice Biennale at the age of 73, or Lubaina Himid's historic Turner Prize win last year, Wylie's moment in the spotlight is long overdue.
I first encountered Rose Wylie's energetic, exuberant compositions last year at the Serpentine Gallery shortly after David Zwirner announced that he was representing the British artist. Curated by Melissa Blanchflower, the exhibition was titled Quack Quack and featured a diverse array of energetic paintings and works on paper dating from the late 1990's to the present day.
Impressed by this body of Wylie's work, I found myself delving further into the artist's unexpected journey to fame. After studying art at Dover School of Art as well as Goldsmiths in the early 1950's, Rose married British painter Roy Oxlade. She only returned to painting several decades later after raising her children and went on to complete a degree at the Royal College of Art in 1981.
With a strong colour palette and textured layers of paint, Wylie's work commands immediate attention. The references to popular film and advertising as well as the collage-like structure of her compositions speaks particularly to the millennial audience. In the age of Snapchat and Instagram, Wylie's cartoon-like canvases feel all the more poignant, and explain her popularity amidst younger audiences. Her colourful and exuberant compositions often merge autobiographical elements, which is the case with Lolita's House.
In Lolita’s House, Plaster Pink (2018), the artist references Vladimir Nabakov as she revisits her memory of her neighbour's daughter who lounged in their garden, and smoking cigarettes in the driveway. Much like a story board, the work is a complex exploration of both the artist's memory and the imagined motivations of the subject playfully nicknamed Lolita.
In Lolita and Selfie (2018) past and present are merged and the essence of the memory as a theme is explored further through contemporary 'selfie' culture. A number of the more intricate works on paper and studies also illustrate the complexity of Wylie's process, often starting with drawings and collage working up to create her paintings.
Rose Wylie has referenced Philip Guston and Chris Ofili as continued sources of inspiration for her large canvases. Inevitably, she also uses the newspapers that line the floors of her studio and images that she finds in corners of the internet. Her fanciful world is both unique and much more complex that it seems at first glance. Using subtle references and thoughtful techniques to create her striking works, Rose Wylie's Lolita has certainly charmed me.
Written by Frederic Gille-Nocard, a Contributor to Arteviste