Friends of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, UK
Rose Wylie and Savannah Miller in conversation
Westbourne Grove Church, London
2 September 2010
by ROSA PILKINGTON
Rose Wylie lives in Kent with her husband (also an artist). She attended Folkestone and Dover School of Art and received an MA from the Royal College of Art in 1981 following 20 years raising three children. At this point she admitted that she “started to paint obsessively”. She has been nominated for numerous prizes, including the Jerwood Painting Prize in 1997 and the Threadneedle Prize in 2009. She is currently featured in a solo exhibition at UNION Gallery who represent her in London. Recently in The Guardian (9 July 2010) Germaine Greer explained her career: “as best understood in the context of conventional art history, because her art is, like most art, about art. She paints as an escapee from the academy, who has returned to untaughtness in an effort to recapture spontaneity, though everything she does is the tribute of a wayward pupil to that academy. When she paints a figure and labels it ‘in the manner of Signorelli’, it may look to the untrained eye nothing like Signorelli, but someone who knows what makes Signorelli different from other members of the Tuscan school will get what she means.” Wylie has regularly sent works to group shows and commercial galleries, but without success. She has sent paintings to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, every year since 1992.
A collaboration with designers, the sisters Savannah and Sienna Miller, who have chosen Wylie as their guest artist for the autumn/winter collection will project her work into a new sphere. Two of Wylie’s drawings will feature on T-shirts that will be on sale worldwide. Interestingly, Savannah’s use of Wiley in her T-shirts actually evolved from bikinis, which Wylie made. When Savannah was young she made her own clothes and it is fascinating to hear how her fashion label evolved.
The discussion in London (2 September 2010) focused on why Savannah Miller chose details of Rose Wylie’s paintings to feature in her fashion designs. Savannah is a great supporter of the idea of an artist or sculptor collaborating with the designer, as she understands how difficult it is for artists to get promotion. It becomes apparent that Savannah is attracted to Rose Wylie’s paintings as they fit with fashion due to the element of quirkiness, which she believes is extremely appealing for the buyer. Wylie enjoys incorporating a design ethos into her work and Miller believes in trying to involve the painter in fashion. They clearly enjoy a harmonious partnership.
Savannah Miller is interested in the way that textiles, fashion and art have collaborated over the past. She feels that the work of a more mature artist appeals to younger fashion designers, as they can offer a great sense of perspective and is interested in incorporating unusual artistic designs, which can encourage self-expression in a broader context.
Wylie states, “It's really exciting to know that my art will be worn by the young and fashionable”. In stylistic terms she is often influenced by film and photography, explaining: “I like working from memory, often using pin-ups, film stars, footballers, as they are shared contemporary gods, outside of art or religion.” In one painting she uses an, “untroubled character” from the film The Angel At My Table (1990). In addition Wylie declares that she does not want her style to be ultra sophisticated, but that she prefers to highlight difference. We learn of her interest in untaught artists such as Jim Shaw and also with primitive art, early Renaissance artists and the Italian style of “crowding figures and stacking them up”. Her influences are widespread as she also refers to her enjoyment in discovering an “African sense of colour”. Moreover she talks of the influence from her husband and why she seeks to find something that makes one feel individual.
When asked about the use of language in art she reveals that she likes Arabic writing but generally she does not read much, “if you don’t read you have more time”. In fact she asserts that she is against any involvement in print and writing. Her work is associative, spurred on primarily, she says by “something that I’ve seen that looks good”. Wylie discusses the duality between appearance and what you do but ultimately believes that what one does is closer and more important. The longer one’s life, she suggests the better one’s perspective on art turns out to be. Wylie reveals that with age one “becomes obsessed with what one is doing”.