Issy Wood - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • An interdisciplinary artist at the vanguard of the 21st century’s revival and reinterpretation of Surrealist themes and motifs, London-based Issy Wood specialises in making the familiar strange, her unusual choice of materials and disquieting imagery marking her out since her first solo exhibition with Carols/Ishikawa Gallery in 2017. Taking her source material from old auction catalogues, her grandmother’s compellingly dated possessions, and photographs taken with her phone, Wood unpicks the thread of tragedy that she finds quietly woven through contemporary commodity culture, establishing an ‘intoxicating interplay of desire, luxury and degradation’ that is particularly pronounced in Chalet.i



    Medieval Millennials

    'I’m convinced the way I configure these otherwise alluring products and garments often lowers them, literally, in tone, or happily switches them from being an advert to an expression of perversion, in the way painting can do.'
    —Issy Wood 


    Painted directly onto thick velvet stretched like canvas, Chalet is typical of Wood’s seductive style, belonging to a body of work that includes her closely cropped and magnified images of car interiors, leather jackets, and everyday commodities that are made unsettling in their proximity to bodies, desires, and an alluring darkness that extends far beyond her chromatic preferences. Closely focused on a pair of softly overlapping black leather gloves, Chalet draws together a wide net of disparate associations including masculinity, deviance, lust, and violence, the artist self-consciously playing with slippery distinctions between inside and outside, objects and objectification. 

    Referencing her classical style and the darkly imaginative world that her paintings inhabit, Wood describes herself as a ‘medieval millennial’.ii Drawing together the antique and the contemporary in surprising ways, Wood’s paintings maintain a level of temporal dissonance that recalls the unsettling atmosphere of Giorgio de Chirico’s Metaphysical canvases, although her choice of palette and materials radically undercuts the sharply polished qualities of de Chirico’s surreal visions. 



    Georgio de Chirico, Le chant d’amour (The Song of Love), 1914, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © DACS 2022
    Giorgio de Chirico, Le chant d’amour (The Song of Love), 1914, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © DACS 2022


    Once popular in ancient Kashmir, velvet painting historically designated wealth, prestige, and opulence. Slipping into kitsch in more recent years with popular subjects including depictions of Elvis Presley and Jesus however, the luxury material now also signifies a somewhat seedier set of associations that Wood amplifies to such powerful effect here.



    Hand in Glove


    At first glance, the painting’s title seems to be strangely unrelated to its subject, Chalet bringing to mind cosy Alpine homesteads more immediately than an empty pair of leather gloves. And yet perhaps the two are not so distinct after all: both protect the body from the elements, encasing it in a warm, safe layer that separates it from the world outside. Such use of illogical juxtaposition and imaginative play is not unusual for Wood, who has highlighted that her titles frequently hint at bodily protection or modes of armouring as her way of ‘verbally working through what a painting is.’iii In this respect, while the leather acts like a second skin in the work, the visible ridges of the glove’s stitched seams to introduce a note of vulnerability, visually recalling the puckered folds of a scar. 


    Such playful interchange between bodies and their accoutrements has proven to be a persistent motif in Surrealist painting and cinema. Taking on the shape of the hand it covers and able to stand in for it metonymically, gloves are especially charged objects, something not lost on the Surrealist objects of Méret Oppenheim and the fantastical designs of Elsa Schiaparelli. Oppenheim in particular seemed fascinated by the ambiguity of gloves, and the tensions between inside and outside, civilised and savage that they evoked. Alongside her infamous fur teacup, Oppenheim also used the thick animal material to cover a pair of gloves in the 1930s, the fingers tipped with wooden digits and lacquered red nails in a provocative correlation of woman and animal. Like Oppenheim, Wood’s use of materials draws on the fetishistic - velvet’s tactility, like fur’s, working with the proximity of gloves to hands, human touch, and sensuality to produce a charged erotic symbolism.



    CAPTION: Elsa Schiaparelli, Woman’s Gloves, 1936 – 37, Philadelphia Museum of Art Image: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mme Elsa Schiaparelli, 1969, 1969-232-55d,e CAPTION: Meret Oppenheim, Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers, 1936 / 1984, Ursula Hauser Collection, Artwork: © DACS 2022
    Left: Elsa Schiaparelli, Woman’s Gloves, 1936 – 37, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mme Elsa Schiaparelli, 1969, 1969-232-55d,e
    Right: Méret Oppenheim, Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers, 1936 / 1984, Ursula Hauser Collection. Artwork: © DACS 2022


    As in her other velvet paintings depicting women’s leather jackets, Wood delights here in the cognitive confusion that arises when painting the likeness of one fabric onto the surface of another, what she describes as ‘a sort of joke with myself about painting, alluding to painting a fabric on a different fabric  […] it has an uncanniness to it.’iv Negotiating the complex gender politics of an artistic movement that offered certain liberations for women while it objectified them, women Surrealists used these slippages and gaps between meaning and representation to powerful effect. Wood has clearly observed this lesson, and her inclusion in White Cube’s 2017 group exhibition Dreamers Awake convincingly situated her work within this artistic legacy.


    Collapsing historical specificity in her own mode of ‘temporal gaslighting’, Chalet also recalls the Czech filmmaker Jiří Barta’s short stop-motion animation The Vanished World of Gloves, where a history of cinema from silent movies to Surrealism and Sci-fi is told through the antics of strangely sentient gloves.v Playing on the strangely human quality our clothes are animated by, Barta’s film certainly resonates with the weird and wonderful world of Wood’s paintings, one that extends into her writing, installations, and music videos.



    Jiří Barta, The Vanished World of Gloves, 1982


    Collector’s Digest


    •    Since her first major institutional show with Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art in 2019, Wood has exhibited her work world-wide, including the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Tate St. Ives. In 2021 her work was included in the critically acclaimed exhibition of contemporary painting in Britain, Mixing it Up: Painting Today at the Hayward Gallery in London.


    •    Featured in the Artsy Vanguard 2020, her works now reside in the permanent collection of Beijing’s X Museum, where she also enjoyed a significant solo exhibition in 2020.


    •    An established musician, Issy Wood is signed with producer Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records, with her second EP If It’s Any Constellation released earlier this year. 


    i Rosanna Mclaughlin, ‘Issy Wood’, Mixing it Up: Painting Today, (exh. cat.), London, Hayward Gallery, 2021, p. 112. 
    ii Naomi Rea, ‘They’re very similar attitudes’: Artist Issy Wood on her double life as a paintings sensation and ascendent pop star’, ArtNews, 20 November 2020, online
    iii Issy Wood in conversation with Sarah McCrory, Luncheon, No. 8., 2019, p. 61. 
    iv Issy Wood in conversation with Sarah McCrory, Luncheon, No. 8., 2019, p. 60-61.
    v Philomena Epps, ‘Issy Wood Talks Painting the Tragedy and Ambivalence Lurking in Luxury’, Garage Magazine, March 18 2019, online.

    • Provenance

      Carlos / Ishikawa, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated 'Issy Wood 2019' on the reverse
oil on velvet
160.7 x 130.4 cm (63 1/4 x 51 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £441,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022