Rose Wylie (b. 1934) was born in Kent, where she lives and works today. A unique artist endowed with a style of sophisticated rawness, Wylie attended the Folkestone and Dover School of Art and, later, in 1981, graduated from the Royal College of Art. In 2013, she was given a spotlight show at Tate Britain, won the John Moore painting prize in 2014, was elected a Royal Academician in 2015, and was featured in the 2015 Royal Academy summer exhibition, winning the Charles Wollaston Award for most distinguished work in the show.
Wylie’s large-scale paintings draw their inspiration from a vast array of media. Intrigued by the theatricality of an image, Wylie’s eclectic muses include jewels, regalia, costumes, uniforms, fashion photography, art history, and film. Mixing images and text, the artist strives for an unsophisticated effect. This stylistic desire often surrounds her visual platform with an initial connotation of technical naivety. However, closer inspection reveals the paintings’ inherent complexity; their strict command of form and colour, intertwined with pop cultural references that are, at times, cruelly comedic. Indeed, Wylie’s compositions transform the visual language of popular media into expressions of fearless colour and humour. Volatile, outrageous, and exhilarating, Wylie’s repertoire is alive with her own distinctive vocabulary.
Central to Wylie’s artistic process is cinema and the notion of its original role as a factory of dreams. Drawing upon a particular scene or image from a movie, Wylie constructs collaged paintings that combine the language of the film with posters and other popular imagery. The result is an effect completely different from what one usually sees on the cinema screen, introducing the idea of a volatile, unstable perspective into the space of her canvases. The mutilation of a film’s original image reflects Wylie’s interest in the process of remembering, of trying to recuperate the memory; the juxtaposition of what is seen and what is real with what is remembered and how it can be recreated. For this reason, her work is concerned with multiplicities. Drawings feature faces and figures that have been reworked over time; paintings include sections that have been whited out and painted over again—there is an aura of ghostly illustrations, of figures coming into being through haunting and multiplicity. In these cases, in Wylie’s paintings, the singular is exchanged with the residue of the multiple.
Employing Philip Guston as her touchstone, Wylie produces work that, like his, is unusual and figurative. Though the styles of both artists can appear simplistic, their aesthetic is meant to be new and exciting; emulating Guston’s energetic expressions, Wylie deftly creates visions imbued with sensational personality.