Jerwood Gallery: Rose Wylie confuses me, and a quick look at the Permanent Collection
Last Thursday I spent the entire day floating on a cloud made of Tramadol and Berocca, which is a particularly potent combination when you are about to embark on a long and hot journey to Hastings, where the Jerwood Gallery lives. Sciatica aside, it was really wonderful to see this beautifully lit gallery in the blazing sunshine, that only opened in March this year yet so far it’s attracted thousands of visitors. I visited with the Fabrica volunteers, a lovely bunch of arty types who showed that drinking at lunch time is okay and dark chocolate is a breakfast food. It’s £7 to get in, £5 concessions, which is one of the pricier south coast galleries, so luckily a cash strapped person like myself was allowed to go in free, under the guise that we re the future of art, or something.
Pin Up & Porn Queen 2006
One of the first things you notice about Rose Wylie’s work is the bold lines and flat colours, there is no dimensions beyond the second, which lends to her huge 3m canvasses a distinctly childlike style. One of the criticisms I have to bring up in regards to Jerwood Gallery is that there isn’t much in the way of exhibition literature. Although a brief statement on Wylie’s style is presented on one of the walls, there doesn’t seem much about the paintings themselves. This may sound like I’m asking for a lot, but sometimes it’s interesting to know about the process behind the paintings, especially with work as strange as Wylies. Some are self explanatory, and as the description says, Rose Wylie’s work is a ‘humble appreciation of everyday experiences, whether films, events or people.’
Getting Better with Water, 2011
There doesn’t seem to be anything deeper than this appreciation, which shouldn’t be a problem, but I would like to know why she chose these moments and what marks them as significant. There doesn’t seem to be any subtlety or character to the figures she paints, it’s not even artificial, it’s just quite hollow. I wasn’t overly impressed by her to be honest, but that’s my opinion.
Sitting on a Bench with Border, 2007-08
I sat and watched a documentary on Rose Wylie in her studio (I can’t remember the name of the director, sorry!), and it struck me that she talks about her paintings like she draws them, child-like and almost naively, as when she talked about Vengeance Film, a work that drew on characters and motif’s from Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’, she pointed out the elements like a 5 year old would point out their parents in a painting. I’m probably being a massive snob but I don’t feel that I got anything out of this exhibition, I didn’t want to delve further.
On the plus side, there are some gorgeous pieces in the permanent collection, such as this painting, Frances Rose (2), 1975, by Maggie Hambling, which is a wonderful depiction of her neighbour. Just looking at the range of tone and colour in her hands shows a real sense of life, and of living. Allison McGechie, an artist that came with us, pointed out her twinkling, almost michevious eyes.
Lilian, 1923. Dod Proctor.
I loved this painting, I love its awkwardness and the expression she is presenting, that seems tired of the painter, and weary. She shoulder doesn’t sit where it should be, she isn’t graceful, yet I find this completely captivating. I didn’t know anything of Proctor’s work before this, but I love the simplicity of it.
The Churchyard, Rye. Edward Burra 1959-61.
This also caught me off guard, if anyone knows Rye, you’ll know it’s an insanely quaint, bright little retirment town, so Burra’s dark depiction of it is haunting, with dark figures sitting in the courtyard, while a cloaked figure walks sombrely past. It makes me wish I hadn’t missed his exhibition at Pallant House.
We ended up here, when I realised you shouldn’t drink Ale on intensely strong painkillers.