Issy Wood - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Both painting and producing music deal with layers, scrapping the parts you don’t want, and happy accidents.' —Issy WoodA work of strange and subtle beauty, Not Turned On is a particularly striking example of interdisciplinary artist Issy Wood’s highly sought-after paintings on stretched velvet – an unusual and unsettling choice of material that has marked her out since her first solo show with Carols/Ishikawa Gallery in 2017. Typical of Wood’s seductive style, the closely-cropped and magnified figure here is made more inscrutable by the soft-focus effect generated by the artist’s combination of materials. Sensorily perplexing and difficult to read, Not Turned On belongs to a body of work focused on decontextualised and enigmatic objects that hover between the antique artefact and kitsch, material and image working together to ‘establish an intoxicating interplay of desire, luxury, and degradation.’i


    Detail of the present work
    Detail of the present work


    Out of Time


    At once utterly contemporary and existing strangely out of time, Wood’s darkly imaginative paintings make surprising juxtapositions between temporalities, compounded by the artist’s use of her grandmother’s ornaments, old auction catalogues, and iPhone photographs as her source material. As a space where objects are radically decontextualised, taken out of their own specific cultural and temporal frameworks and placed alongside an assortment of other objects, the glossy pages of old auction catalogues are especially compelling for the artist,  where ‘centuries of heritage and ulterior motives are boiled down to into a transaction.’ii Divorced from its historical and cultural contexts in this way, the carved figure dominating the composition becomes difficult to locate as an object, emphasised by Wood’s inclusion of a diaphanous layer of floral print intervening between the viewer and the painted figure.


    Acknowledging the sense of temporal confusion generated by her strange and compelling paintings, Wood describes herself as a ‘medieval millennial’, her paintings as at home in the 1910s as the 2010s. Born in the 1990s, Wood is a digital native, well-schooled in the constant flows of decontextualised images and information that characterises the internet age she belongs to ‘a generation born into that ahistorical, anti-mnemonic blip culture – a generation for whom time has always come ready-cut into digital micro-slices.’iii


    René Magritte, Découverte (Discovery), 1927, private collection. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    René Magritte, Découverte (Discovery), 1927, private collection. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022


    A playful double entendre referring to the closed, unseeing eyes of the central sculptural figure and a lack of sexual attraction, the title highlights Wood’s delight in word-play and an interest in the slipperiness of meaning that extends to her treatment of materials. As in her paintings of leather jackets and car interiors, in Not Turned On Wood generates a compelling confusion in her use of black paint on a black velvet ground here, rendering the likeness of one material onto the surface of another that 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 Drawing out the uncanniness of these objects, and their ability to stand in for one another, Not Turned On frustrates our attempts to make the carved object legible as obsidian or hard-polished wood in a manner that recalls the careful balance between revealing and concealing struck in Surrealist master René Magritte’s insidiously subtle notion of combined objects, and the slippery exchanges between word and image, sign and signified.


    Exploring relationships between the visual and the haptic through her painterly process, Wood reveals the power of material juxtaposition in generating mood and meaning. 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 religious imagery however, the luxury material now also signifies a kind of anti-art statement developed self-consciously by Julian Schnabel in the 1980s, where ‘the linking of different strands and the juxtaposition of essentially incompatible elements at the levels of colour, materials and even content give each work a dissonant quality.’v


    Julian Schnabel, Kaballistic Painting, 1983, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit. Image: © Detroit Institute of Arts / Founders Society purchase, W. Hawkins Ferry fund / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Julian Schnabel / ARS, New York / DACS 2022


    As Max Hollein has described in relation to Schnabel’s velvet paintings, ‘a found painting surface, such as an old tarpaulin, a dark-coloured velvet, or a panel from a stage set, already has its own structure and history. Such surfaces are not neutral; they are not passive, but instead already have a voice of their own and the power to evoke mood’vi Bringing our attention to the painted surface and the complex variety of associations and sensations that it gives rise to, Not Turned On reasserts the immediacy and primacy of the painted image in the Digital Age.


    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 last year.


    Issy Wood, ‘Debt’, 2020


    i Rosanna Mclaughlin, ‘Issy Wood’, Mixing it Up: Painting Today, (exh. cat.), London, Hayward Gallery, 2021, p. 112. 
    ii Issy Wood, quoted in Rosanna Mclaughlin, ‘Issy Wood’, Mixing it Up: Painting Today, (exh. cat.), London, Hayward Gallery, 2021, p. 112. 
    iii Mark Fisher, quoted in Griselda Murray Brown, ‘Paint the moment: why millennials are tunring to oil and canvas’, Financial Times, 20 April 2018, online.  
    iv Issy Wood in conversation with Sarah McCrory, Luncheon, No. 8., 2019, p. 60-61.
    v Max Hollein, ed., Julian Schnabel: Malerei / Paintings 1978–2003 (exh. cat.),Frankfurt, 2004, p.34.
    vi Max Hollein, ed., Julian Schnabel: Malerei / Paintings 1978–2003 (exh. cat.),Frankfurt, 2004, p.33.

    • Provenance

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


Not Turned On

signed and dated ‘Wood ‘18’ on the stretcher
oil on velvet
140.3 x 90.3 cm (55 1/4 x 35 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £151,200

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741


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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022