Foreword by Elizabeth Gilmore and Lara Wardle. Texts by Phoebe Hoban and Katie Kitamura
This catalogue has been published to accompany the Jerwood Gallery's inaugural exhibition, a retrospective of Rose Wylie's paintings, Big Boys Sit in the Front. The exhibition's title is derived from the final line of a poem by Robert Creeley (1926–2005), "...the big people, sitting up front," whom she met in Vancouver in 1962; it is a poem, written late in his career, which reminds him, and us, how childhood can feel. This mirrors Wylie's respect for direct imagery, an example of which she finds in the work of African lorry artists. Sitting at the back clearly has its benefits. It is the paradoxical tension between her childlike charm and astute intelligence which makes Wylie a formidable and exciting presence in contemporary painting.
The breadth and diversity of Wylie's reference points—uninhibited by chronology, geography, or personal experience are well acknowledged. But too great a focus on these aspects rather misses the point. Wylie is delighted and humbled by what she sees. It is her core qualities, her spirit of generosity and humility which encourage us to re-engage in the act of looking.