press release

The English painter Stella Vine creates her paintings with just the bare minimum required to give the works something like space extending from the picture plane, forestalling vertigo. The sensationalism of the images' content sometimes obscures the real joy in the work, but with a list of subjects that careens from Jean Harlowe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Sid and Nancy, and Princess Diana to the artist's relatives, it's hard not to look for meaning.

'When Charles Saatchi purchased her painting of Diana, Princess of Wales, Stella Vine was propelled into the centre of a media frenzy and aspects of her life story were filtered through that particularly English kaleidoscope that is tabloid tale telling. Somehow in all this temporary fiction, in the whole hoopla of burlesque outrage, the main point got lost - the work itself.

Stella Vine is a contemporary figurative painter, a tightropey place to be at present. Her paintings, however, far from being stuck in some kind of revisionist retreading, trace a radical trajectory that connects the Rococo lyricism of Gainsborough to the Kitchen Sink storytelling of John Bratby, arriving at a modern gothic soup of Dark Romanticism where it is possible to discern the artist thinking with her brush.

Vine's darkling theatre of identification, re-defines a contemporary axis of representation where the melancholic gravitas of the work is often balanced by deft touches of black humour. After the recent intense media scrutiny of her private life, Stella has spent time making new work, retreating into a fictive world “like a lost girl... a deranged teenager trying to make an environment of loves, memories and desires”.

Not unlike the songs of P.J Harvey, which “dramatise the conflicts of desiring and being desired”, Vine explores “a kind of self exposure that uniquely combines seduction and threat, intimacy and estrangement”.

- Alex Michon

Stella Vine was born Melissa Robson in 1969. She lived in Alnwick until she was seven years old, then moved to live with a stepfather she didn't get on with. "I feel like I've always been rejected by people close to me. I've always wanted to be loved by lots of people," Stella says. The normal spiel for a tortured artist perhaps, but Stella's journey into the art world was peppered with moments most people would want to forget. Stella is well known to have worked as a stripper - perhaps not an occupation favoured by the art circles. Stella had to do something to pay her way. "If you go out to work you've got to pay someone to look after the baby, and therefore stripping means you can do all of that and have enough money to live. It seems like a sensible decision," she says. Stella discovered painting when she attended an art class with her son Jamie. "The teacher came up and said 'forget about drawing, get the paint and colours down and paint what you see.' Two or three hours later I was absolutely lost," she says. This admission is like a red rag to a bull for the critics and to them screams "amateur". Pete

"I have always been ambitious, no doubt about that. I always felt like I had to reach the dizzy heights of fame and success or whatever the heights are of a number of given professions I have dabbled in, to prove myself, "Stripper of the year" a bafta or whatever, for me it was by creating something interesting and entertaining or moving, but not by compromising the thing I was creating, that thing had to reach those heights, I guess it's about being accepted and loved a bit or a lot."

Stella Vine


Stella Vine
bluebells, hollyhocks and honesty