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.