BLOG Stanzi Collier-Qureshy

NWR Issue 110

Rose Wylie’s Tilt the Horizontal into a Slant

Rose Wylie

Much like its name suggests, Rose Wylie’s exhibition at Chapter, Cardiff, turns preconceptions on their head. With her fresh and unusual style of painting, when I first entered the gallery room on Thursday 24 March, it seemed that I was looking at the messy paintings of a child who had got into their parents’ paints. At first glance, the huge canvases on display are a chaotic whirl of lines, colours and scrawled handwriting that assault the senses and bring you up short. This, you think, is art?

Having been on display at Tate Britain, there must be something deeper to Wylie’s paintings than that first impression. But perhaps this is the point. The purpose of Wylie’s artwork appears to be to confound, to confuse, to force the viewer to question the very boundaries of art. There are no plaques giving any details, titles or information about the pieces towering on the walls and so it is left up to the viewer to explain, to offer some form of meaning.

In most of the paintings, crudely drawn figures, often nude outlines, dance with scratchy words that one assumes must be the titles. Palm Tree & Camel, Surprised Boy meets Girl, Battle in Heaven... These are just some of the puzzling themes the viewer is left to ruminate on. The canvases themselves are un-stretched and un-primed, adding to the feel of artlessness that abounds in this exhibition. Wylie’s paintings demonstrate a return to a purer form of art, one that is uncontrived, that focuses solely on the passion and movement of lines and images, on inspiration. The artist aims for – and achieves – a look that is untaught, something evident in the way even her spelling is sometimes at fault.

Wylie takes her images and thoughts from the everyday, from snippets of popular culture, and transposes them into something that is incredibly simple and yet at the same time eerily complex. It is about recollection, about how the ordinary images one sees are translated into memory and regurgitated again. One painting, for example, clearly inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, works wonderfully as both a frozen trailer for the film, capturing its feel and plot, and as a review, dissecting its images. In this piece, one of the soldiers has quite literally lost his head, which is replaced by empty space and looping fragments of words.

Though only a small exhibition with just over ten paintings, the gallery is chockfull of thoughts and observations about living a modern-day life and gives an important message: art can be anything. While artful vomit may not be to everyone’s taste, ‘Tilt the Horizontal into a Slant’ is well worth checking out simply for the chaos and colours.

Stanzi Collier-Qureshy is a blogger-in-residence at New Welsh Review as part of her placement via Cardiff University.

Living and working in Kent, Rose Wylie was born in 1934 and has been painting for most of her life. Tilt the Horizontal into a Slant Entry is free and the exhibition runs until Sunday 29 May at Chapter arts centre, Cardiff


previous blog: Made Anew: Stories from the Broken and Mended
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