Presenting a new body of paintings, including both landscapes and portraiture from her travels and experiences, Elizabeth Peyton opens a new body of work at Sadie Coles HQ in London, filling the gallery’s Davies Street location with her uniquely delicate watercolors, pencil drawings and oil compositions. The show is Peyton’s seventh with the gallery in nearly twenty years, and marks a continuation of her recent practice and stylistic diversity.
Peyton’s work frequently takes on an autobiographical bent, presenting countless portraits of her close friends, collaborators and acquaintances, often in a range of techniques that emphasize the sitters personality over the course of several pieces. Her works on view here continue this thread, painting a number of sitters in a range of styles and hands. Works move swiftly from blocky uses of negative space to slight, skeletal tracings of her models, with Peyton’s approaches to light, contour and shading changing drastically from piece to piece.
Yet what makes the exhibition here particularly interesting are sudden inflections of timeframe and perspective that make Peyton’s work echo beyond her immediate surroundings. Executing intimately-posed portraits of a range of artists and performers, among them Dan Kjær Nielsen of the Danish punk band Iceage and Billie Holiday, Peyton’s work here makes connections across eras and generations, painting both friends and inspirations, in a manner that connects the moments of her physical moorings with her psychological landscape. This point is driven home in Two women (after Courbet), referencing the renowned realist in her dreamy reinterpretation. Similarly, her work Knights Dreaming (after EBJ) makes explicit reference to Edward Burne-Jones, with its subject matter more deliberately concealed.
It’s an interesting point to consider the often heroic subtexts that Peyton works into her pieces, from the snippet of text from Tristan she presents as her press release to the frequent appearance of Wagnerian performers and homages to artists like Burne-Jones. Presented here, the pictures on view offer something of a heroic angle on Peyton’s inner circle, as if the artist were transposing something of the Pre-Raphaelite, Romantic and Realist traditions into the contemporary era, carrying their respective ideologies and emphases on the human soul with them.
Peyton’s exhibition is on view through February 20th.
— D. Creahan
Elizabeth Peyton at Sadie Coles HQ [Exhibition Site]