Rose Wylie’s goal: to paint like a five-year-old
At 81, the British artist is gaining recognition by avoiding artifice and artiness
Inglourious Basterds (film notes) 2010 by Rose Wylie. Courtesy of the artist and Union, London
From left, Night Visitors; and Cherry Blossoms, both by Niall Naessens
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
Having studied painting in the 1950s, Rose Wylie put her work on the back burner so that she could look after her children. She returned to making art in earnest in the late 1970s and completed an MFA. But it’s only within the past decade or so that she has exhibited widely and become well-known, winning the endorsement of Germaine Greer, no less, and the John Moores Painting Prize for 2014. By which point she was 80 years old.
Drop in to the Douglas Hyde Gallery and you might be surprised. Chances are Wylie’s paintings are not what you would expect from someone of her age and generation. “Think of Miss Marple channelling Jean-Michel Basquiat,” wrote the New York critic David Cohen. There’s a stark, graphic simplicity to them, with a cartoonish vigour to the drawing and explosive bursts of coloured pigment, often thickly, loosely applied. Among her influences she mentions Everett Peck’s Duckman cartoons in the same breath as 15th-century Sienese painter Giovanni di Paolo. Her own paintings are very informal, incorporating bits of painted text that offer helpful commentaries on the images.
Sometimes the titles include the qualification “(film notes)” as in the case of Inglorious Basterds, which, at close to 3m wide, is an epic recollection of several characters in Quentin Tarantino’s violent war drama. The painting resembles a cross between a section of the Bayeux tapestry and an enthusiastic child’s drawing in a school copybook, writ very large indeed. That’s no insult, given that Wylie has said that she aims to make pictures in a way that’s as close to the unaffected directness of a five-year-old as she can get. She wants to avoid artifice, contrivance and artiness.
In a way she’s trying to second-guess herself, to get around what she knows. She’s been described as faux-naïf, which is understandable but not what she has in mind and not really what comes across. What comes across is self-discipline, an ability to stop and walk away at the precise point where she feels a painting is at risk of becoming contrived. To be fair, it should be said that she does cover over her “mistakes”, although probably more in her work on paper: she’ll just collage over an errant passage and try again. That lack of pretence is entirely in keeping with her overall approach.
Collectively her work is quite like a personal notebook, a way of remembering. Her nod to Tarantino is not a modish affectation. She watches a lot of films and she has said that, the day after seeing a film, she will make a drawing about it as a means of finding out how memorable it was. The drawings become the basis of the paintings, which is why the paintings look so much like huge drawings. In fact, in an interview with Marcus Reichert she said: “A painting is a big drawing . . . but with the lumpiness of paint.” Until May 13th, douglashydegallery.com
L12121 Picture Panoply – Niall Naessens
Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin
As a printmaker, Niall Naessens is an exemplary technician. That can be a bad thing. It is an occupational hazard among printmakers that obsessive attention to technique can stifle or corral creativity. But Naessens seems to be aware of that, and has always been at pains to look outwards, beyond the confines of the well-ordered print studio with its ironclad routine. Never more so than since he moved to rural Co Kerry, looking over the sea. L12121 is, apparently, the code for the Lios na Caolbhaí Road near Brandon, where he lives and works.
Not that he has embraced disorder. He is a classicist. That is, he is one of those artists who takes on the unruly chaos of the world and makes an orderly, illuminating and beautiful representation of it, and the pleasure we take from his work stems from that process and the abilities that go into it. His use of line is superb, and his penchant for heightened or idiosyncratic colour, which might give you pause, is actually pretty sound.
The etchings and monoprint/drawings (in other words, each is unique) in the show make up an exploration of his immediate environment, from inside to out, and close-up details – such as moths against the window – to distant vistas. He excels at conveying the layering of phenomena and vision, and stillness and movement are nicely counterpointed.
In daily life, there’s lots of movement built into what we see, and he manages to catch that incredibly well: leaves, sycamore seeds and litter scattering across a landscape, the acrobatics of swallows, a shower of hail flung by the wind. He’s equally good on stillness, when it comes to the night sky, for example, as in the superb Ursa Major. Until March 28th, graphicstudiodublin.com
Equations – Katherine Boucher Beug
Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin
There are several strands to Katherine Boucher Beug’s Equations: assemblages of found and sometimes painted wood and other materials and objects; collaged mixed-media paintings; and watercolours. The paintings play with the idea of books, depicting them and hinting at their contents. One is even titled Notebook. They could well be the nutritive ground from which the other works sprout, but in the end, with just a few exceptions, they are the weak link. Both assemblages and watercolours manage to soar, but the paintings remain mostly sluggish and indecisive.
One really feels that Boucher Beug allowed herself the freedom and applied the discipline of means that gives assemblages and watercolours the edge. In them, she’s willing to go with fleeting observations, glimpses on the hoof. Handle brazenly incorporates a door handle, and manages to open the door, figuratively speaking. The lyricism of Dog and the upfront symbolism of Voyage – a wooden prow against a blue expanse – are equally effective. Until April 1st, oliversearsgallery.com