Wen Wu - Hero Beauty


Portraits – An exhibition of works by Mat Humphrey and Wen Wu

Private View: Wednesday 10th September 2008 – 6:30 to 9pm
Exhibition continues: Thursday 11th September to Wednesday 1st October – 1:30 to 7pm

Sartorial Contemporary Art is absolutely delighted to show case the talents of two artists both of whom paint brilliant portraits. There is a visual distinction between the methods of the two painters, but the works compliment each other in a way that Sartorial believes will be a rewarding exhibition.

Arising from the thought of painting his mother as a “pseudo-religious icon… her face weathered but surrounded by kitsch symbolism, fake gold leaf and gaudiness”, Humphrey's work for this show combines, and perhaps confuses, colourful kitsch realism with an unsettling intimacy.

The paintings draw from a range of styles that, through the familiarity of their ‘low-brow' references, may lull the viewer into a false sense of comfort. However, there is a subtle undercurrent of disquiet that travels through these works. The subjects are perhaps uneasy within their bright and decorative surroundings. Halos and metallic rays engulf the sitters but seem to be almost an embarrassment to them. Some facial expressions appear to be teetering on the edge of either anger of amusement, or are displaying a reluctance to be idolised.  Others sit slightly uncomfortably within their kitsch presentation. The works bring into question notions of the use of portrayal within contemporary society. Unlike historical portraiture, these works are not attempts to elevate the status of the sitter.

“I became interested in the notion of self doubt within a portrait. I noticed the painting of Pope Innocent X by Velazquez holds a peculiar expression of self questioning.  I wanted my subjects to be full of doubts… and to put that at odds with the presentation of the subject. I want both paintings and their subjects to feel like they have come from a time of uncertainty”.

Wen Wu grew up in the strict and repressive atmosphere of Communist China. Immersing herself in art was her freedom. Recently Wen's imagination has been captured by the relationship of beauty and death within nature, such as the self-destruction of a moth that is unable to stay away from the flame and the graceful and wonderful leopard that can be capable of great cruelty. These creatures appear in her work like symbols representing different aspects of her concerns

Wen's art world influences include the decadent high society paintings from the 18th Century and also Velazquez, and his 17th century portraits of courtesans.

She has invented an alter ego. Her creation is a middle-aged man who lives in Ancient Greece, and has a fondness for beautiful boys.  She thinks about what work this character would make if he were alive and then makes it herself. Her portraits investigate notions of privacy, and question the extent to which ones thoughts should be revealed in public. Wu positions the viewer as a voyeur witnessing a moment of an erotic fantasy in a secret diary - the same fantasies which Wu explores through the mask of her alternative persona.

Wen picks and chooses aspects of different histories and cultures and puts them together however she feels fits. The series of paintings Wen has made for this show explore the idea of beauty. Her different influences have resulted in highly imaginative works that are erotic, vibrant and unique.


SARTORIAL CONTEMPORARY ART 101A Kensington Church St. London W8 7LN
Opening hours 1.30 to 7pm , Tuesday to Saturday or by appointment
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