Honor Fraser is pleased to present London-based artist Phoebe Unwin’s first solo exhibition in the United States.
The British artist makes paintings that do not conform to one particular style, method, medium or scale. Her work displays an unusual curiosity and energy engaged in pushing the possibilities of painting. This results in exciting risk-taking; her paintings thrive on differences, making it possible for her to create and deal with a visual language that ranges from the unsettling to the beautiful; from a large spectacle to something quietly intimate.
Intrinsic to the breadth of her visual vocabulary is an unconventional choice and realization of subject matter. She does not use photographic or direct observational source material. Instead, Unwin begins with thinking of what may be seen as a universally familiar thing, situation or moment. This is combined with an acute awareness of painting’s formal qualities: the chosen colors, marks and scale are an essential part of her subjects. Past paintings have included: sunglasses falling; a phone conversation; a shower; a picnic; an airplane meal. There are also less tangible subjects: a portrait about alertness, thinking or waiting; a person affecting their environment and vice-versa. The common regard for these ideas is communicating what a subject might feel like, rather than its existing appearance.
The work displays a voracious appetite for color surprise: her palette ranges widely from modern fluorescents and flat acids to traditional earthy, rich impasto. This orchestration is achieved through individual paintings made from various materials such as acrylic, oil, graphite, gold and silver leaf. As a result, unexpected and contrasting atmospheres are achieved, creating an exhilarating jump between works.
It is both tempting and fair to see a Californian influence in Unwin’s artistic development. Her formative years were spent in Palo Alto, California. She holds a vivid memory of the brilliant light, jeweled natural landscape and the vibrant palette of Mexican folk art. This is juxtaposed with her later years spent in England where she absorbed the monotone and controlled colors of a European environment.
Born in 1979 in Cambridge, Phoebe Unwin lives and works in London. She studied at Newcastle University, Newcastle (1998-2002) and the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2003-2005). In 2008 she had a solo exhibition titled Feelings and Other Forms, at Wilkinson, London; her second solo show at the gallery. In 2007, she had her first solo museum exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery, Buckinghamshire, UK. Unwin has participated in group exhibitions in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Majorca, and Reykjavik. She has recently been commissioned to create a work for a Centre Pompidou publication made in connection with their exhibition Voids – A Retrospective. In October 2009, she will be participating in Newspeak: British Art Now, an exhibition with selections from the Saatchi Collection, to be on view at The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. She has two exhibition catalogs of her work: Feelings and Other Forms, with a text by Jens Hoffmann, published by Wilkinson and A Short Walk From a Shout to a Whisper, with a text by Max Henry, published by Milton Keynes Gallery.