Elizabeth Peyton at the Whitechapel Gallery

A few weeks ago, I went for the first time to the newly re-opened Whitechapel Gallery  in East London, and I really wondered what all the fuss was about: you know when you have heard so much about a great film/ book/ place, and you finally see it, you are a little disappointed.

I just had this feeling that it was just like the rest of the Shoreditch/ Brick Lane/ East end area: too hyped, but just quite cheap in fact, and when the trendiness and the cool kids are gone, there is not much to be talked about. I felt quite dubious in the midst of pseudo-existentialist experimental sculptures, pieces of art too-easy-because-relying-on-the-same-elements-as-always: shock, sex and pop culture, and some mainstream YBA Damien Hirst dot painting to try to justify the excessive hype. Beautiful building though. And free at least. I would wait for another exhibition and give it a second try later on. Just like LOVE magazine.

But then I came back tonight. All the pretence and pretension was gone, and I had an amazing time. After a few expected ‘experimental’ pieces, I found a series of fantastic paintings by artist Lara Viana see some of her work here. That was followed by a polemic open roundtable about democracy, and interactive readings from hilarious contemporary poets Tim Wells and John Hegley – the latter even made me translate his poems in French in front of everyone.

And last but not least, I discovered the work of one of my new favourite-contemporary-artist-ever: Elizabeth Peyton.

Elizabeth Peyton is a New-York based portrait artist. She wears – and paint – Marc Jacobs. Her favourite authors are mine: Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert. Her work is mainly oil-based A4/ A3 paintings, in a photographic style, with large brush strokes, an ‘unfinished’ effect, and a tad of fashion illustration inspiration.  

With minimal but accurate strokes, the artist suggests and displays expressions and emotions of some of the leading cultural icons of modern society – from Michelle Obama to Frida Kahlo, from Napoleon to Prince Harry, but with a predilection for rock stars: Peter Doherty, Jarvis Cocker, Liam Gallagher and Julian Casablancas being recurrent models of hers.

A true artist of our times. Contemporary expressionist and romantic version of Andy Warhol.

Pictures above: Elizabeth Peyton. Left: ‘Pete and Carl’, 2004 – a picture that some might know is particularly dear to me. Right: ‘The age of innocence’, 2007.

13 Responses to “Elizabeth Peyton at the Whitechapel Gallery”

  1. Great post…love Elizabeth Peyton’s work. So vivid – and true to our generation.

  2. I really love art but i find myself not having enough time in London to visit all the wonderful Art Gallery.

    The work of Elizabeth Peyton is just amazing…what a true artist! 🙂

    Have a wonderful weekend dear!


  3. Jyotika: Thanks! I love her work too, you’re right, very relevant to our generation, that’s for sure.
    Anna: Thank you! You should definitely make some time for this exhibition, it’s not so big, and easy to acess, right by Aldgate East Tube Station. Plus it’s free! Have a nice weekend too! xx

  4. I discovered Elizabeth Peyton in an old issue of Vogue and I saw some of her work in an exhibition in Fribourg, if I remember well, and yeah. She’s quite awesome. You should check her picture of Kurt Cobain, it’s stunning. Her picture of Pete & Carl is on my wall! According to me, she’s way less controversial, almost political than Warhol, but (so?) she’s definitely a true, amazing artist, and I’m fangirling all over the place :P.
    Anyway, great blog.
    See you soon!


  5. That second painting is absolutely beautiful. Love portrayed at such a key moment – the intensity before that kiss!

    Do enter my Current/Elliott jeans giveaway here (http://lacouturiernyc.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/a-one-year-celebration-giveaway/. Simply write your own “petite novella” (or short fashion fiction) about the outfit you/a character would wear incorporating those jeans & leave it in the comments! Have fun, be creative – you have a week! It can be a sentence long, or a few paragraphs! I would loooove to read your entry!

    bisous, La C.

  6. This was a wonderful read! I’ve never heard of Elizabeth Peyton, so this is something really new to me, thanks for sharing!

  7. Would love to, Alize…but there is an ocean separating me from sweet London. Next time… 🙂 /J

  8. Cool! I love the paintings, great style!

  9. Chloegirl: Yes several Kurt Cobain paintings were at the exhibition too. I see what you mean about Warhol. Peyton’s work is not so much about being political than just assessing what’s there already. The advent of pop culture. Thanks! x
    La C. : Love the intensity of that one too. x
    Jyotika: Oh no! But I guess I tried to describe it for you and highlight Peyton’s work so it’s better than nothing. 😉 x
    Jamie: Thanks. Loving it too. The style is indeed interesting.. a mix of expressionism and just naive sketch.. x

  10. You have definitely tempted me to reconsider the Whitechapel Gallery. I have visited twice in the past, and was kind of disappointed both times! It felt like there was a lot of potential, but the displays were just not all that up to sratch. That being said however, I absolutely LOVE Elizabeth Peyton! She has to be one of the best portrait painters around nowadays, so amazing 🙂

  11. Dapper Kid: I’m glad I made you change give this gallery another try, it definitely deserves it! 🙂 Enjoy the exhibit if you can go & let me know what you think! x
    Ticoda: agreed! x

  12. sounds like a great Gallery to visit, I ‘m going down to London in two weeks time, I think I will put this one on my to do list, thanks for sharing, Jo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: