I am curiously drawn to Roy Oxlade. I first encountered him through the writings of Emily Ball, a local tutor and painter.
As part of the preparation for my essay I am trying to understand the work of a group of artists that are associated with Emily, who are clearly highly accomplished and much acclaimed. Roy and his wife Rose Wylie are part of that group.
Olympia’s Trolley, a 1989 work by Roy Oxlade
All members of the group, which includes John Skinner, Gary Goodman and Georgia Hayes, paint in what could be described as a naive style. The sort of paintings that attract the comment ‘my two year old could have done that.’. And yet Rose Wylie won the much acclaimed John Moores Prize, so there has to be more to their work, which set me on a journey to discover what it is that I am not seeing.
Rose Wylie’s painting, called PVC Windows and Floorboards, has won the John Moores prize. Photograph: Walker Art Gallery
Roy Oxlade studied at Goldsmiths in London, and was a student of David Bomberg for two years at the Borough Polytechnic. He received his PhD from the Royal College of Art. His PhD thesis was on David Bomberg and titled, Bomberg and the Borough: An Approach to Drawing.
His writings in Art & Instinct are very readable and reveal a man completely dedicated to his art, art education and the practice of making art. It also reveals a man frustrated with the art establishment, particularly what he calls ‘the BritArt phenomenon’ 1, the power wielded by the few over the many. He is also unashamedly outspoken with regard to artists he considers unworthy of their lauded position, ‘I have been unable ever to find anything of value in the work of Jackson Pollock.’ 2
I much admire his intellect and I am slowly being drawn into his way of viewing the world, with the hope that in doing so I will understand his, and this type of, work more comprehensively.
Writing about Rose Wylie he places her work in the context of Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenology, that ‘is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness’.3 On drawing a robin from life he explains ‘that she seems, without effort, .. to be able to give her total attention freshly, without prejudice, to whatever it is that attracts her eye and be totally absorbed by its unique qualities. Knowledge – and this includes the background of art history as well as observation of the physical world – has been assimilated but somehow completely overtaken by the impact of the new experience.’ That feels like an almost a childlike departure from the world, as constructed, into an immersed world of now. This total trance-like immersion may go some way to explaining the response to the immersion. Interesting.
1 Art & Instinct 2010 p55
2 Art & Instinct 2010 p54