'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Saturday, 10 September 2011

It must be strange to find yourself seventy-six, you've had three hip replacements and four children, you've been working diligently away in the same Kent studio for four decades without anybody taking the blindest bit of notice of what you're up to when suddenly Sienna Miller's putting your work on the front of t-shirts for her fashion line Twenty8Twelve, Ralph Rugoff's pitching up at your private view, Germaine Greer's bigging you up in the Guardian, you're even being referred to as 'electric and eclectic' by Grazia magazine. (I'm not sure which is greater, The Guardian or Grazia. Actually, no, Grazia obviously.)

Yet it seems this sort of thing is going on for a goodly handful of septuagenarian artists. Never mind life begins at 40. For a certain generation of women, life, it seems, is beginning at 70. Depressing on one level, inspiring on another, because it goes to show, you never know what's around the next corner.

One such is Rose Wylie. I really want to like Rose Wylie's work. What kind of a feminist doesn't like Rose Wylie's work? I'm trying, I'm really trying. But I'm kind of aware that I like the story more than I like the canvases. If I intellectualise the whole thing I can like them. If I'm going on my gut response, I don't.

They're very big, they're figurative and they're painted in that way that sort of implies spontaneity without actually being spontaneous. It's not a pretence, it's a process, just the result doesn't really grab me. Which, as Germaine Greer scathingly points out, it didn't really grab Charles Saatchi either, hence Wylie now finds herself 'imminently collectible'. Thumbs down from Charles, thumbs up from Sienna. Quelle minefield?! Who knew Germaine was such a follower of fashionable taste and its makers and shakers.

The exhibition currently showing at The Approach has Wylie's work alongside US born sculptor Evan Holloway. These, I'm afraid, I found utterly dreary. That sort of folksy, crafty looking stuff isn't my thing, however subtle its comments on modern scultpure's legacy.

That said, The Approach is a great space with an interesting exhibition programme, situated above a charmingly unpretentious pub. The private view was on First Thursday so post-Wylie we really should have dashed off to Vyner Street or Redchurch Street or somewhere equally buzzy, wherein we could have hoovered up three hundred exhibitions in less than half an hour. But my new policy in life is, I'm so over rushing about. What's to be gained from seeing three hundred exhibitions in less than half an hour anyway, when you can see one and then retire to the pub for a glass or two and a relaxed chin wag with a friend?

Yeah, I'm taking it easy from now on. Because apart from anything else, whatever I do, however hard I work, however much pressure I put on myself and on this thing called 'success', I don't know what's around the next corner. And if I do dash about and I do see everything and achieve everything… then what? Rather take it easy and leave a few challenges for next year.

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