Cupid & Fur Coat features thematic and motif-based links to the repertoire of her Film Notes series, which she began in the early 2000s. The title of the exhibition refers to two dominant scenes present in two particularly crucial images. In Pedro Almodovar’s film Julieta, there is a close-up scene in which an animal with horns (probably a deer or a stag) looks through the window of a train. Shortly afterwards, the train stops abruptly and the same animal appears on the opposite side of the image, head-on, like an apparition in the train’s headlights. For Wylie, this isn’t the most significant scene in the film, but it is one which she feels represents irrationality, sex and freedom. Comical Cupid, positioned at the centre of the triptych, is not present in this film. He only functions metaphorically as the figure of Cupid: a central, heraldic figure, taken from an aesthetically irrelevant Irish greetings card for Valentine’s Day.
The fur coat mentioned is a short, mink coat, the luxurious fashion piece of a long-legged blonde who slips into the foreground of the mysterious scenery of the image Pig Painting. It is a photo taken from an Yves Saint Laurent collection. This image is the result of freely associated combinations of ideas and designs which have come together under the principle of chance. This exhibition also presents a variant of Pig Painting, in which a similar model, near-identical white pig, and the profile of a person smoking a protruding cigar are portrayed. The latter was also on show in another exhibition at David Zwirner, London. The sketchy repetitions derive from ‘meditative’ exercises which Wylie calls ‘late-night drawings’. They will be presented in large format directly on the page.
The charm of our analogue, as well as our digital, image culture and the nature of the acquisition of such images broadly determine the artist’s interests. Her Film Notes are not just about visuallly artistic reproductions in the form of a retelling or illustration, nor are they about artificial media criticism, or about what people see, instead they are about how people see. She deals with the interplay that exists between an individually subjective and a collective process of contemplation.
Wylie does not systematise any key scenes which are slavishly responsible, metaphorically significant nor typical for the course of a plot or a narrative. She combines individually impressive scenes and their stored souvenir images in a ‘flow’ of free associations which may come from entirely different places. She consistently transcends the limits of the age-old principles of painting and, in doing so, this highlights her own new beginning in the most difficult subject of all: the insertion of complex film images into an empty, white canvas using the traditional projection tools of painting. The work may be able to benefit technically and aesthetically from the experiences of the production of analogue and digital images, in terms of form and content.
Meanwhile, the Tale of Tales series relates to Matteo Garrone’s new melodramatic fairytale orgy, a chilling adaptation which sets the pulse racing. It reflects different views of the same subject in line with synthetic cubism.
African Barber Shop Sign enthusiastically explores the colourful, exotic world of the barbershop with its characters and stage-like furnishings, but which Wylie has never visited nor experienced herself. Wylie no longer merely retrieves templates and fragments from these scenes and motifs (in line with the original surrealist method of the ‘objet trouvé’) in the oft reproduced world of print media or in sequences from films. Her new discovery is the infinite resource of the internet: with Google, it is possible to precisely expand and systematise one’s own stored visual memories. From the overflowing reservoir of these memories, her photographic memory fishes out vibrant examples and she places these in the context of a profound, unreeling, collaborative, collective memory.
At first glance, one sees images populated by typecast and clearly recognisable figures and characters, whose actions are interlinked thanks to accompanying texts such as those on the banners of gothic altar pieces or in book illustrations. These are not ranked however, and are instead organised in a meaningful manner which affords them an equal footing on the canvas. The selected individuals in the picture are taken from film, art history or from daily life (e.g. sport). Dominant protagonists seem mostly isolated in the image and are positioned in the foreground as opposed to other motifs and are therefore considerably larger (as in a close-up). They act as they do in life and in cinema, moving sometimes like a frieze (like on Cretan vases or ancient Egyptian tomb paintings), in sequences directly above the image level, acting as both levels and aesthetic limits. All image elements, whether directly painted, dabbed, scratched, cut, glued, painted over, etc., exist in a collage layout before being assembled together to create a ‘successful’ but not absolutely sought-after final image. This too is committed (consciously or otherwise) to the principles of surrealist methods.
Like Guston or Basquiat, the effect of Rose Wylie’s images is that of often brutal, raw, overwhelmingly banal-seeming, and amusingly playful, ironic alternative concepts of a disrupted, halting, auratic and aestheticising modern age. They are often brightly-coloured, expressive, ‘loud’ and surprising. Their forms and content come from diverse sources of narrative, figures and abstract mimetic art. The works are fusions of different research into late Guston and the history of mural painting. They also naturally reference multi-pronged realism, dadaism, surrealism, and pop art, ancient art, wall painting, medieval art, illustrated manuscripts, popular culture and consumer high street imagery; and also subliminally the tricks and devices of the Italian Renaissance; the exchange of ideas and attitudes between her and her husband Roy Oxlade must have been interesting.
From the beginning of May (5 May – 23 June 2017) the Neue Galerie Gladbeck will be showing collection of Wylie’s work titled Use What You’ve Got.
©Karl H. Lötzer, freelance author and curator