Elizabeth Peyton review

A love story between a painter and the subject

Elizabeth Peyton review – Sadie Coles London until 15 June 2019

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Elizabeth Peyton review, A love story between a painter and the subject
Greta Thurnberg (2019) oil on board, 43.6 x 35.8 cm, All rights are reserved by the artist and gallery, ©Elizabeth Peyton, Sadie Coles London

Elizabeth Peyton returns to London with exhibition paintings and prints at Sadie Coles Gallery.  The first thing I am drawn to as I view this new body of work is her passion for painting and the people she depicts.  Over the years the configurations of her paintings have become more and more involved. The subject matter is still the same but Peyton’s use of light, colour and poignancy has compounded.  She brings out more physical aspects in her lush romantic paintings.

It is perhaps surprising that a few abbreviated spontaneous strokes can capture feelings sending them beyond merely descriptive marks.  She captures his life force in ‘David (Dave Bowie)’ (2019). The watercolour brushwork is pure and clean like freshly fallen snow, allowing her to express direct expressions of emotion.  Peyton uses the variations of bristles to portray a simple beauty and ideal concept.

A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

Chantal Joffe asks; What is it like to be somebody else?
It is satiable to fall in love with the subject.  However, falling in love is something Peyton does very easily.  Her paintings and her marriage to the Thai artist Rirkit Tirvanija is evidence of that.  In 1991, a few weeks after meeting Tirvanija, he was due to leave the US due to visa difficulties.  But Peyton told her, “I will marry you” and he meant it. They were married three weeks later.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Elizabeth Peyton, Yuzuru, Review
Yuzuru (Helsinki) 2018 monotype on Twinrocker handmade paper 79.7 x 59.5 cm, All rights are reserved by the artist and gallery, ©Elizabeth Peyton, Sadie Coles London
The happy marriage, unfortunately, came to an end in 2004 when they divorced.  Nevertheless, Tirvanija introduced her to Gavin Brown, the art dealer, before he had his own gallery space.  Gavin Brown encouraged Peyton to have a solo show in Room 828, at the Hotel Chelsea, in New York.  This was to be the beginning of Peyton’s art career.

A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

Elizabeth Peyton - Sadie Coles London
Peyton started off her career painting a personal homage to artists and musician of the nineties.  She was inspired by reading Stefan Zweig’s ‘Marie Antoinette: The portrait of an Average Women’ and Vincent Cronin’s ‘Napoleon’.   Peyton understood and realised that Zweig’s book was a portrait of women infused with feelings and human insight. In Cronin’s ‘Napoleon’ book he showed that because of Napoleon’s individuality, he was able to use his magnetism to transform and change the world.
Elizabeth Peyton says, “I’d always made pictures of people, even when I was a little, little person.  The urge was there.  I just didn’t know why.  When I did that drawing of Napoleon, I realised this is something I have to do and want to do.”

A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

David Salle undressing the role of the artist and the writer
Once it occurred to Peyton that all she needed to validate her work was to realise that ‘history is in people’ and by romanticising the image she was able to capture the spirit of the time.  By painting certain selected people in her show, Greta Thunberg, Jackson, Ally’s kiss in the film ‘A Star is Born’, she is participating in what she sees as a highly important cause.
“I really love the people I paint. I believe in them, I’m happy they’re in the world.”
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Elizabeth Peyton, Review
David (David Bowie) 2019 watercolour on paper 41 x 31 cm, All rights are reserved by the artist and gallery, ©Elizabeth Peyton, Sadie Coles London
The images she chooses to paint are in comfortable and relaxed poses rather than the glamorous tabloid snaps of the front page. In her images, vulnerability and susceptibility are on show and warm and fuzzy feelings of desire and affection radiates.
The paintings make the viewer and artist come alive with Peyton’s work reverberating powerfully with the viewing public.  Peyton, by essential painting the characterise of the period, has deeply embedded her work in the zeitgeist.  James Baldwin the American novelist, playwright and activities once wrote,
“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them”
A love story between a painter and the subject – Elizabeth Peyton review

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