Her art teacher told her a woman could never be a good artist, so she became a teacher instead and dedicated herself to bringing up her three children. The start of her story sounds familiar, because it is that of many women artists who gave up because of social and family commitments, but in Rose Wylie's case the ending is different. When her children had grown up, she returned to studying, painting and holding small exhibitions in southern England, and then she was chosen to represent her country in the 'Women to Watch' exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. That, in 2010 and when she was 76 years of age, is when the world of art discovered her. Now Rose Wylie is 84, and her work is being exhibited for the first time in Spain at the CAC. Physical health problems meant that she wasn't able to travel to Malaga, but the 29 large paintings on display are speaking for her.
Until 9 September, 'Hullo, Hullo...' reveals an artist who bucks the established trends, “who paints not in an elegant manner but with a voluntary clumsiness” as Fernando Francés, who curated the exhibition, explained at the opening. She doesn't care about detail, paints with her hands (such as in 'Red Painting Bird, Lemur & Elephant'), and never hides the corrections in her work, such as in 'Spider Frog & Bird', where you can see fragments of canvas she has superimposed in order to rectify something. It is a lack of delicacy which springs naturally from her, “just as a child would paint”.
Rose Wylie captures images from her surroundings, from what she sees at the cinema, on TV or through her window, and retains them like an archive in her brain. Then, on the blank canvas, she releases them “in a brutal manner”, so her works are similar to 'art brut', but also show influences from primitive art and childhood.
With this apparently spontaneous painting she reflects upon fashion, sport, cinema, beauty, truth and post-truth, the mass media... her brushstrokes are a reminder of expressionism, but her content is more pop. This can be seen from the title of the exhibition, a way of greeting someone and the way Graham Norton opens his show on the BBC. 'Hullo Hullo' appears in several works in this display, sometimes even written over the painting. It is there in 'Hullo, Hullo, Following-on After the News', where she shows a stylised female figure which seems to jump, just as in the intro to this TV magazine programme. It also reappears in 'Six Hullo Girls' and 'Hullo Hullo, Black Ink'.
Accepted norms of beauty
In this subtle manner, Wylie looks at the norms of beauty and women's image, on television and in the cinema. She was inspired by Penélope Cruz's character in the film 'Volver', by Pedro Almodóvar, for two of her works ('Sitting on a Bench with Border' and 'Sitting on Bench, Red Shadow'). She doesn't try to make a portrait of the actress, but to use her as a stereotypical icon of beauty. Almodóvar also reappears, this time with all the letters of his name on the canvas (although there is an error: she has written 'Almodover'), on her vision of the film 'Julieta'. Wylie returns to the theme of feminine beauty in a series dedicated to Nicole Kidman, who she admires, and paints looking stylish and elegant in the dress she wore to the Cannes premiere of 'The paperboy', in the painting called 'Black Strap'.
Her take on sport occupies the central part of the exhibition, but she “doesn't look at it critically, but as a representation of an aesthetic and of values. Why are all the athletes males?” asks Francés. In 'Yellow strip', which is nearly eight metres long, one can sense Ronaldinho, a footballer who attracts her attention.
There are other memories from her childhood and snapshots recorded in her mind which she has turned into pictures: cut-out coupons, advertisements, animals (a bird, a frog...) and even the war she lived through as a little girl.
'Hullo, Hullo...' is a journey through her past 25 years of creating, the ones which ended by putting her art in the place it belongs. “And when an artist aged over 70 or 80 is able to do things which are absolutely new, we are talking about a genius,” said Fernando Francés at the presentation of the exhibition, where he was accompanied by Malaga's Councillor for Culture, Gemma del Corral.