Craig Wylie – Exhibition Review by Kristy Campbell

Craig Wylie
The Fairhurst Gallery, Norwich

Studies for a Painting

The white washed exhibition walls of the Fairhurst Gallery have been transformed in to Craig Wylie’s playground. The space has been furnished with an archive of unseen charcoal sketches from his studio, alongside elegantly raw life-sized oil paintings. The multitude of works decorating the walls are reminiscent of a studio, or a giant vitrine populated with fragments of the artist’s journey.

The solitary nature of the artist is stressed through the visible repetition and intense reworking of his practice. The sketches resemble the primary stages of execution, fixating on extremes of light and dark, an assortment of gestural mark-making, proportion, and a stew of tranquil and ambiguous poses from life models. Wylie explores his posed subject through his chosen media, progressing from an expressive flow of lines dancing over the model’s body, to a photo-realist style where he spectacularly demonstrates his technique providing intricate detailing to visual textures. Frank Auerbach is said to be one of a few Modern Masters that Wylie takes influence from, witness the evidence of restless line work composing the figures; the awkward positioning of the models is on occasion remindful of Egon Schiele’s figural distortion.

Wylie’s unframed works objectify the model and further emphasise the qualities of the materials he uses. The unprotected paper, exposed nude, and vulnerable unsteady charcoal brings forth a revealing and organic feel about the process. Further to this, the pommel horse introduces character to Wylie’s workspace and implies a narrative that might accompany the expressions in his drawings. This firm, weighty feature contrasts with the delicate offerings of the artist. The gymnast’s prop implies strength and control, but is reinvented in this thoughtful context. Observing the work’s frame within a frame draws out Francis Bacon’s caging of a subject. While the artworks exist outside of their charcoal lines, their frigid minimal design compliments the staggering aesthetic of Wylie’s progression.

This hidden hall of treasures is a pleasure to unpick. It is tremendously refreshing to view such honest craftsmanship, and to have such high quality traditional technique installed on the thriving Arts scene in Norwich.
Craig Wylie’s exhibition is available for viewing until 23 February 2018 – this is a grand unveiling you don’t want to miss.

Kristy Campbell
February 2018