Rose Wylie - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'Some people think painting is about stark reality. In fact, it’s about poetry and transformation.'
    —Rose Wylie

    Black Strap (Red Fly), painted in 2014, is the perfect embodiment of Wylie’s characteristic style. Often described as cartoonish and child-like, Wylie’s large, vibrant canvases are carefully considered compositions that reflect a lifetime of experience through an ever-youthful spirit. 


    'I like escalators,' Wylie says. 'You can really stare at people.'1 While Wylie’s work is inspired by mundane experiences, the artist is also often confronted with the idea of a painting after watching a movie, or after seeing something in the newspaper, or on the street. When describing her process Wylie reveals that she first starts by sketching out her observations, explaining that 'in my life I stack and heap up notations of experiences, and often repeat this process in combinations of paintings as I see them in my mind. A painting is not finally what it does, or what it makes, or what it has, or what it means … it is. The painting is the meaning.'2 As a result, Wylie’s paintings acquire sincerity and spontaneity, allowing the viewer to be a part of her personal and external worlds.


    This process, based on memory and chance, helps the artist examine her sensitivity of the world around her and recognise what truly inspires and excites her. The artist works on un-primed and un-stretched canvases, using colour boldly and simply, and like in Black Strap (Red Fly) she sometimes adds text to outline her own commentary on the scene. 'The writing at the bottom of the painting that is attached to it is scratchy and thin. It’s very legible but it’s very jejune… it’s somehow dismissive. But that’s deliberate on my part because everyone gives much more attention to text than they do to image and so I’ve reversed the weight and given much more time and density of paint to the image.'3


    In Black Strap (Red Fly), Wylie depicts a scene central to which is a half-nude female figure with her back turned towards the viewer, flanked by two large flies. The figure bares hardly any features or defining characteristics, apart from bouncy blonde hair and a black strap across her back. Wylie portrays the female figure with a disproportionality that somehow renders her subject all the more natural and innocent. The simplified forms share the visual vocabulary and aesthetics of Philip Guston’s cartoonlike figures, which according to Wylie have served her as inspiration throughout the years. 


    The oversized flies add interplay of near and far to the composition and flatten out the perspective. The unconventional scale of subjects makes it so that no line or object is emphasized and given preference to, allowing the viewer the choice of where to place their attention. This result is achieved not only through the figurative features of the work, but also in the method of applying thick and thin layers of paint, contrasted by the bare areas of unpainted canvas. The composition is underlined by a Venetian red border, almost like a bold frame to the story. 




    • Provenance

      GNYP Gallery, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, GNYP Gallery, Zachary Armstrong & Rose Wylie: Boy meets Girl, 12 September – 1 November 2015
      Cardiff, Chapter, Rose Wylie: Tilt The Horizontal Into a Slant, 13 February - 29 May 2016

    • Literature

      Clarrie Wallis, Rose Wylie, London, 2018, no. 48, p. 58 (illustrated)


Black Strap (Red Fly)

signed 'Rose Wylie' on the reverse of each part; titled, consecutively numbered and inscribed 'BLACK STRAP RED FLY [(5) (LEFT)/(6)(RIGHT)]' on the stretcher of each part
oil, graphite, marker pen and canvas collage on canvas laid on canvas, in 2 parts
left part 184.2 x 164.8 cm (72 1/2 x 64 7/8 in.)
right part 184.2 x 166.8 cm (72 1/2 x 65 5/8 in.)
overall 184.2 x 331.6 cm (72 1/2 x 130 1/2 in.)

Executed in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡♠

Sold for £220,500

Contact Specialist


Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021