British artist Stella Vine has been both celebrated and vilified by art critics and the media for her often controversial artworks. A figurative painter, Vine draws from the media, people and life experiences with a brutal honesty...
“The things that I really love are very different to what I do. I like [Georgio] Morandi – he’s my favourite; I can’t put into words what comes through in his work. I love Joan Mitchell; I saw her work a few months ago for the first time, there is real expressionist freedom in what she does. Over the years and I guess as a teenager I must have had some influence of [Andy] Warhol… I remember when I went to New York in ’99 to look at art I was really taken with [Willem] de Kooning and I’ve always loved [Edvard] Munch because I’ve used a lot of his paintings when I was at acting school; if I had been in a play I would use his paintings as my relatives. I mean there were a lot of things that I would use but I never try to emulate and I never look to art for ideas. That must sound insincere to a lot of people who do that, because they may say we are bound to be influenced anyway to a degree but I do think its an organic childlike thing. The child is still in all of us, it doesn’t really go away and I can still relate to me at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7-years-old. I think when you look at a child, for example if my niece is painting – she doesn’t know anything about Warhol or de Kooning, and yet her painting is remarkably like mine. There will be text on there like ‘to mummy’, which are basic childlike elements, and I think the idea of the comic or the cartoon comes in quite naturally – speech bubbles and the like. I’ve never actually been into Roy Lichtenstein, who does that sort of thing, not that I dislike it, it just never turned me on. I don’t think my work comes from that; it’s just a really natural thing. I mean there’s a number of artists who include text and the truth of life and expressionism in their work, I mean it's absolutely nothing original what I’m doing, is it? It just happens to be true to me.”
"The child is still in all of us, it doesn’t really go away"
British artist Stella Vine has been both celebrated and vilified by art critics and the media for her often controversial artworks. A figurative painter, Vine draws from the media, people and life experiences with a brutal honesty. Working in a childlike manner, the naivety of her technique and sugary colour palette is however juxtaposed with a complex and recurrently dark subject matter.
Shooting to fame in 2004 when Charles Saatchi bought her painting of Princess Diana, Hi Paul can you come over I'm really frightened (2003), Vine was able to work as a full time artist after previously having to take up jobs as a waitress, cleaner and stripper to support herself and son as a single mum. Going on to notably paint Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, Pete Doherty and Big Brother contestant Chantelle Houghton, her focus on the cult of the celebrity as a contemporary fairytale has caused people to draw comparisons between her work and that of Pop artist Andy Warhol’s.
Today Vine is taking part in Hay’s philosophy and music festival in Hay HowTheLightsGetIn and creating a largescale painting from 10am to 10pm, which will then act as a backdrop to a performance by The Chapman Family. Appropriately timed, post-Jubilee, Vine’s painting will focus on her mixed views of the royal family and recurrent interest in Princess Diana, whilst the band will perform new songs from their album Cruel Britannia.
HowTheLightsGetIn runs in Hay until June 10. Stella Vine working on Slyvia Plath related work to be exhibited later this year at Indiana University.
Text by Lucia Davies