Issy Wood - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • “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

    Disquieting surrealism surrounds the everyday objects depicted in the art of Issy Wood. A continuation of her most popular series, the present work – a close-cropped view of a black leather puffer jacket – is dark and cerebral, finished with a lustre that renders it almost tactile. The multi-disciplinary artist uses painting, writing and music as the outlet of her creative energies, and Cries Real Tears! is synonymously named after her 5-song EP, released in 2020. The brutalist nature of this large-scale work is offset with a vertical streak of maroon, blue and swirling whites to the far right of the canvas; a method frequently used by the artist that explores the idea of juxtaposing the real with the imagined. After her paintings were discovered by Vanessa Carlos on the artist’s Tumblr page, she was immediately signed to her gallery, Carlos/Ishikawa in 2017. Since then, Wood has held numerous solo exhibitions with them, as well as partaking in group exhibitions with LGDR, New York; Maureen Paley, Hove; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; and Thaddeus Ropac, London.


    Man Ray, L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse, 1920, remade 1972, Tate Modern, London. Image: © Tate, Artwork: © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2023


    Wood’s works are distinguished by an almost hazy appearance, which stems from her unorthodox choice of support. The oil paint of Cries Real Tears! has been applied to velvet, creating an interesting dichotomy between the hard-edged composition and soft, sumptuous surface texture. Wood has explained that this is ‘a joke with myself about painting, alluding to painting a fabric on a different fabric; what it’s like to render leather on velvet […] it has an uncanniness to it’.i In the close-cropped composition of her coat series, she creates another sartorial link between the coat and a suit of armour. Wood makes many allusions to her consideration of a coat as a piece of armour in both the titles of her works – a black jacket titled Over Armour – and in interviews: ‘a kind of defence – or a shell or second skin, depending on what you want to protect yourself from’.ii The isolated view of shiny black leather is not unlike the austere head-on shots of breast-plate armour shown on museum websites, and Wood effectively uses intelligent composition to remove her subjects from their usual environments, before warping our perception of them.  


    Breastplate, German or Austrian, c. 1475-85. Image: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo


    Critic and writer Barry Schwabsky has described Wood’s work as a kind of ‘perverted realism’.iii Everyday objects, in this case a coat, are isolated and estranged, and the hyper-zoomed view with which we are afforded creates a surreal and disconcerting atmosphere. This distorted presentation of familiar objects aligns Wood’s art with the Surrealist movement of the early 20th century. Dadaist and Surrealist artists like Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp pioneered a new form of sculpture through their use of ‘found’ everyday objects. Removed from their traditional environment, viewers are asked to reconsider familiar items in new – and often bizarre – ways. L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse is one of Man Ray’s wrapped sculptures, and features a sewing machine, covered in a blanket and tied with string. This abnormal view of a common object shares visual similarities with Cries Real Tears! – in the bulging, black fabric – and both represent unconventional presentations of sartorial subjects.

    “I lay the foundations for something that hints at the early twentieth century and throw in a mobile phone or a manicure, as a sort of temporal gaslighting.”
    —Issy Wood

    Wood’s estranged compositions push the materiality of commodities to the forefront, in a strange curation of images that ‘say so much without saying anything at all’.iv In doing so, she comments upon and fetishises the vapidity of modern consumer culture, using auction catalogues and adverts as pictorial inspiration. She chooses objects based on their ‘promise of the pristine’, yet her edgy, sardonic composition and painting style ensures that ‘this promise is broken almost every time’.v


    Collector’s Digest

    • Issy Wood is known for her unsettling, painterly oil works. Cries Real Tears! is part of her most popular series, which features imposing, closely-cropped views of women’s jackets. The artist reached her auction record with a similar work, Chalet, which sold for £441,000 at Phillips London Evening Sale, on 3rd March 2022.

    • A multi-disciplinary artist, she also writes and creates music, and the present work is named after a 5-song EP released in 2020 of the same name.

    • 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, Tate St. Ives, and Beijing’s X Museum. She has held solo exhibitions with Michael Werner and Carlos/Ishikawa in London and New York, and she has forthcoming exhibitions in Paris and Soeul this year.



    i Issy Wood, quoted in ‘Issy Wood in Conversation with Sarah McCrory’, Luncheon, no. 8, 2019, pp. 60-61.

    ii Issy Wood, quoted in ‘Issy Wood in Conversation with Sarah McCrory’, Luncheon, no. 8, 2019, p. 61.

    iii Barry Schwabsky, ‘Issy Wood’, Artforum, vol. 58, no. 8, April 2020, online.

    iv Ayanna Dozier, ‘Issy Wood’s Hypnotic Paintings Reveal the Darker Side of Feminity’, Artsy, 19 September, 2022, online.

    v Issy Wood, quoted in ‘Why Issy Wood’s week beats your year’, Artspace, 17 April, 2023, online.

    • Provenance

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


Cries Real Tears!

oil on velvet
180 x 145.5 cm (70 7/8 x 57 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡♠

Sold for £215,900

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 13 October 2023