Visitors to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery are immediately engaged with Rose Wylie’s work their silhouettes project onto the first work they see, with the low winter sun penetrating into the gallery, in the same way that they would create a silhouette if they stood in the light of a film projector, a highly appropriate link for an artist who explores contemporary imagery and identity.
As a child, British artist Rose Wylie lived near Kensington Gardens. She has come home and she has brought her vibrant colourful art, which is bursting off the walls, starting with a depiction of Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and her memory of warplanes flying overhead in the Blitz in 1940 with the ack ack guns firing shells to try to bring them down. Memories continue with her 1999 work which goes back to the next period in her life when she lived in Kent towards the end of the War, with allotments and vegetable growing contrasting with doodle bugs and the blackness of the blackout in her home.
Wylie adapts the simplicity of colour and forms that children use when they can draw a house with only a few lines and colours to images from places she has visited and from popular culture and media often painted across several panels, which means that she can do something unique – turn paintings round corners, as if they are moving like in a film. She explores how images and icons represent popular culture and people including film stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Nikole Kidman and Penelope Cruz, along with football icons such as Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry and Jens Lehmann, while football rivals such as Arsenal and Spurs are tied back to their logos. In a similar way, she explores how simple images of people, their dress, movement and style, along with other clues can represent a country such as Cuba.
Wylie’s work burst from, and runs around, the brick walls of the gallery.