Rose Wylie won the first prize in the John Moores Painting Prize in 2014. This painting depicts the private view of Wylie’s exhibition at the Approach Gallery in London in 2011. The figures include Rose herself and the art critic Nancy Durrant who was present on the opening night.
The composition began to take shape before the event itself. Wylie had been particularly struck by the way the Gallery’s Director, Jake Miller, had described the space to her on the telephone, and even at that stage the image started to form in her mind’s eye. She recalls how he described the ‘nice floorboards and lovely windows.’ She went on to draw in biro, as is her method, the L-shaped floor plan of the gallery on a piece of paper, before consulting the Observer newspaper’s magazine supplement for an example of ‘good’ windows. She settled on the Georgian windows that appear in the finished canvas, despite the fact the Approach’s windows are Victorian. Wylie explains: “That didn’t matter; it’s my answer to good windows.”
This witty determination exemplifies the artist’s approach to her subjects. She is not attempting to recreate reality in her paintings. Instead, she is concerned with capturing what she describes as the ‘particularity’ of a moment – her own subjective and characterful impression that blends the real and the imagined.
Wylie was particularly struck by the appearance and clothes of the three women at the event, and this fascination is reflected on the canvas. She remembers: “There was a lot of work on the particularity of things the four people were wearing. They were all wearing very different things.” Wylie drew each figure from memory after the event.