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Issy Wood: In the Eye of the Beholder

Issy Wood, an American-born artist now based in London, stands out in the contemporary art world for her unique blend of realism and surrealism. Her Kafkaesque paintings, characterized by their near-photorealistic quality, juxtapose people and everyday objects in macabre avatars, creating scenes that are both familiar and eerily distorted. Wood’s work is not only visually striking but also rich in thematic content, exploring iniquitous themes such as the impact of consumerism on women, the deceptive allure of heritage, and the transient nature of life and form post-mortem.

The artist’s journey began in the United States, where she was raised before relocating to the United Kingdom for her higher education. She received a BA in Fine Art and History of Art from Goldsmith’s in 2015 and an MA from the Royal Academy Schools in 2018. This educational background, combined with her personal experiences and reflections, has deeply influenced her artistic voice. Wood, who describes herself as a ‘mediaeval millennial’, masterfully merges classical interpretations with modern-day issues, presenting a fresh perspective on both. Her acerbic tone and compelling subject matter have garnered her significant attention and acclaim, leading to her participation in renowned exhibitions across the globe.

Issy Wood: Crafting a Legacy

Wood’s artistic influence extends well beyond her paintings. Her works have been featured in prominent exhibitions at White Cube, London; Mendes Wood DM, Brussels; the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; and Tate, St. Ives. In 2019, Wood showcased her versatility with a series of tiny oil portraits of Joan Rivers and an installation of over 1,000 hand-painted floor tiles at the Zabludowicz Collection’s World Receivers exhibition. This was followed by her largest solo exhibition to date, “All The Rage”, at the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art in London, further cementing her status as a formidable talent in the art world.

The beginning of 2020 marked another milestone for Wood with her maiden solo show with JTT in New York, titled “daughterproof”. This period also saw her take bold strides in her career, as evidenced by her decision to independently release her album, “My Body Your Choice”, and collaborate with Michael Werner Gallery for a solo exhibition. Such moves are indicative of Wood’s determination to forge her own path in the art world, undeterred by the conventional routes of representation and distribution. Her artistic journey is a testament to her hard-scrabble grit and unwavering commitment to her vision.

A Glimpse into the Artist’s Mind

Delving deeper into Issy Wood’s creative process reveals a world where spontaneity and structure coexist. Wood, unlike many artists, does not indulge in multitasking during her creative process. Her focus is singular and undistracted, often pondering over the perfection of a color or the soundness of a brushstroke. This immersion into her art is a testament to her dedication and perhaps, a reflection of her need for a controlled environment, reminiscent of the structured settings of school or an office. Yet, despite this need for structure, there is an underlying current of rebellion in her approach. Wood acknowledges the challenges of managing her creative and personal life, striving to find a balance between her passion for art and the mundane but essential aspects of daily life.

Wood’s artistic approach is equally intriguing. Her paintings, characterized by their intimacy and detachment, invite viewers to contemplate the fine line between the real and the surreal. She challenges the conventional understanding of painting ‘from life’ in an age where digital screens mediate much of our experiences. Wood’s work, therefore, becomes a bridge between the tactile reality of traditional art and the ephemeral nature of the digital world, a theme that resonates profoundly in an era increasingly dominated by virtual experiences.

Issy Wood: A Global Artistic Influence

Issy Wood’s impact on the art world extends far beyond the confines of her studio in London. Her work has been celebrated internationally, with solo exhibitions at prestigious venues such as Carlos/Ishikawa in London, X Museum in Beijing, JTT in New York, and many others. These exhibitions not only showcase her talent but also her ability to engage with diverse cultural contexts and audiences. Her inclusion in significant collections such as the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta speaks volumes about her global appeal and the universal resonance of her themes.

One of Wood’s most evocative works, “The Asp in Clasp” (2018), exemplifies her unique style. This piece features a watch strap transformed into a serpentine figure, set against a dream-like backdrop, blurring the lines between the tangible and the fantastical. The subtle use of color in this work enhances its surreal quality, inviting viewers to explore the shadowy realm between fantasy and the subconscious. Wood’s ability to create such mesmerizing visual narratives has not only earned her a place in renowned institutions but has also made her a leading voice in contemporary art.

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