Rose Wylie

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Quack Quack, Said the Duck: The Must See Show in London This Week

Some of the paintings on show in the Serpentine Gallery are so new that during the opening you could smell the oil paint. Rose Wylie may now be in her 80s, but you wouldn’t know it from this rumbustious and rollicking exhibition (“Rose Wylie: Quack Quack” at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery until 11 February).

Art world fame has come late—Wylie was in her eighth decade when she won the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize in 2014, the same year she became a Royal Academician—and she wears her recognition lightly.

Wylie says that her paintings often “heap up notations of experiences” and multiple readings swirl around these works. Here’s Elizabeth I, farthingaled and be-ruffed, based on Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s famous Ditchley Portrait (c.1592) and surrounded by floating pansies that appear like heraldic shields in Queen with Pansies (Dots) (2016).

Footballers, ice skaters, insects, dogs and film stars prance, bob and cavort across expanses of bare, unprimed canvas, often accompanied by scrawling pieces of text and depicted with a sprawling, schematic immediacy and lashings of thickly applied paint. Sometimes, as in the claggy monochrome scarlet expanses that comprise Red Painting, Bird, Lemur and Elephant (2016) this is directly slathered on with the artist’s hands—a massive Color Field finger-painting.

In the large, recent work Park Dogs and Air Raid (2017), based on a childhood memory of watching British Spitfires and Nazi Messerschmitts slug it out during the Blitz in 1940, planes zap each other with explosive cartoon flashes while, on the ground below, ducks dabble in the lake in front of the Sackler Gallery.

Equally monumental is the gigantic Pink Skater (Will I Win, Will I Win) (2015), in which a blonde woman, resplendent in a candy-pink dress, soars splay-legged across bright orange stars painted over two canvases, with the caption “WILL I WIN” running like ticker tape along the bottom.

Wylie wraps her canvases around corners, creating a sense of dramatic horizontal movement that recalls cartoon strips, film frames, ancient frescoes and architectural friezes. Images repeat and forms echo, making it clear that the apparent spontaneity is underpinned by careful consideration.

While there is a childlike directness to Wylie’s paintings, they are neither childish nor whimsical. Much like Philip Guston (whom she openly admires) the awkwardness of her images is richly expressive. The scale, freedom and confidence of these works convey both grandeur and glee. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery is a demanding space, but with these irresistible paintings, Wylie completely owns it.

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Rose Wylie at the Serpentine review: a joyous journey through the moments that make a life

There is wild pleasure to be had from Rose Wylie, certainly on a first pass around her new exhibition. We are greeted to the Serpentine gallery by a pink dressed skater, leaping across a double canvas amid red starbursts. Flinging her arms and legs wide, the painting can barely contain her, any more than her little dress can: while her face is doll-like and her wrists dressed with pompoms, the skater's body has the full solidity of a woman of a certain age. 'Will I Win' reads determined lettering along the bottom: 'Will I Win'. Around the corner we meet the Irreverent Anatomy Drawing (2017), a wobbly brown horse with luxuriant eyelashes and protruding tongue presented as an unconvincing medical cutaway, bones drawn and labelled by someone with little interest in the accuracy of either bones or labels.

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Exhibition review: Rose Wylie at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, W2

"Will I win? Will I win?" shouts the fat pink skater as she hurtles across the in-your-face picture that greets you as you come through the door. I can’t help but feel that, for the painter Rose Wylie, it's a particularly pressing question. And it's one that the curators of this, her first big exhibition in a public London museum invite you to ponder and, hopefully by the end, find an answer for.

Wylie's backstory has commanded attention. Trained as an artist in the early 1950s, she has spent most of her career all but unrecognised. Living quietly in Kent, she devoted her energies to raising her family. And by the time she returned to her easel — or, at least, to the floor on which she typically spreads her expanses of canvas — she was in her forties.

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Rose Wylie's painterly energy at the Serpentine

"Her medium is energy," was the apt comment by the Serpentine's artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s at yesterday's (29 November) opening of Rose Wylie's solo show of enormous exuberant canvases, which line the walls of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. This certainly seemed a good way to sum up the animated, unruly parade of footballers, Hollywood royalty, cut-out dolls as well as Queen Elizabeth, all of which—along with rumbustious dogs, elephants and much more—have been whipped into existence with lashings of oil paint. In one painting even a park bench seems poised for liftoff, and the fact that some of the works had only recently left the studio was confirmed by a distinctly discernible whiff of oil paint.

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Rose Wylie review – childlike bursts of freedom and joy

This is how Rose Wylie paints the sun. She does a big yellow circle. Then she adds straight yellow lines around it. Underneath she does a couple of palm trees that are brown sticks with dollops of green on top. On the sea, she adds an outline of a ship with black smoke puffing out of it.

The teacher gave her a gold star and pinned it on the classroom wall. His name is Mr Hans-Ulrich Obrist and the nursery is called the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. The exhibition is called Quack Quack. Oh, and young Rose is 83.

It took me a while to come back to the palm trees in her painting Cuban Scene, Smoke (2016) and compare them with the Californian palms David Hockney paints. Hockney’s palms are more precise, but do they really say more about the essence of a palm than Wylie’s bursts of broad-brushed leaves? Painting is a wonderful, magic thing. That is why young children love doing it. Wylie has rediscovered in maturity the freedom with which we painted when we were kids. Make a dog. Make a duck. Make a V1 flying bomb.

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The 10 best things to do this week

It feels as if the art world has been playing catch-up when it comes to Kent-based Rose Wylie’s large paintings, often inspired by recollections and facts. Five years ago, at the age of 77, she found herself being talked about as an up-and-coming artist, while this show is her first major London exhibition.

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Rose Wylie: 'I want to be known for my paintings – not because I'm old'

lot has changed for Rose Wylie since Germaine Greer first praised her vast and blissfully unruly paintings in the Guardian seven years ago. Then the late-blooming artist was a new discovery and her unsold, unstretched canvases were stacked from floor to ceiling in the 17th-century Kent cottage that’s been her home for 50 years. When I arrange to meet her there, just before her new solo show opens at the Serpentine Sackler this month, I worry that there won’t be anything to see.

Over leftover birthday cake – Wylie has just turned 83 – she says that when it comes to the day-to-day business of creating drawings and paintings, little has altered. “I have the same carpenter making the stretchers. I put the glue on myself and cut the canvas. Everything is the same. They just used to pile up. Now they don’t.”

Paintings have recently gone to art fairs in France and Shanghai. What she’s currently working on in her studio, a converted bedroom upstairs, is destined for an exhibition next spring with the blue-chip American dealer David Zwirner. Waiting to be shipped out, in a shed abutting the kitchen, her new commissions for Quack Quack, as the new Serpentine show is called, draw on memories from her time in Kensington as a child during the blitz, as well as observations of the park’s present-day visitors – a mix of fighter planes, cavorting dogs and resting migrants. Pinned on the side of a bookshelf in the dining room is a list of older works for the show, their titles describing the everyday, accessible subjects she loves, from olive oil labels to Choco Leibniz biscuits, from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill to Arsenal and Spurs.

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Young at Art: Painter Rose Wylie Is Emerging as a Star at Age 83

Over the last few years, and particularly in recent months, the home studio where the 83-year-old painter Rose Wylie has lived and worked for decades in Kent, England has undergone what amounts to a décor change. Usually stacked to the ceiling with piles of the large-scale canvases that Wylie works on unstretched, with her completed, almost billboard-like works leaning against the wall, it's lately been looking a bit spare. “They used to be here, but not anymore,” she said at home on a recent morning, where she was contemplating a piece she’d been working on until 2 a.m. the night before. “They’ve been out.”

That’s because Wylie is having something of an art world moment in her eighties — a transition from “completely unknown to slightly known,” as she put it — that’s lately left her inventory depleted. Since Wylie appeared as the only non-American artist in the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ "Women to Watch" exhibition in 2010, things have been ramping up for the painter: Just this year, her solo shows have popped up from Cardiff to Seoul, and were joined by another just last week at David Zwirner’s London gallery, “Horse, Bird, Cat," whose titular work spans 18 feet wide. That size may present a challenge for many exhibition spaces, but fortunately, Zwirner's Upper Room gallery — which usually showcases artists outside of the gallery's usual roster, and whom it occasionally goes on to represent — had the room to spare.

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