Issy Wood “I Like to Watch” Ilmin Museum of Art / Seoul

November 13, 2023

“I Like to Watch” is the first solo show by Issy Wood in Korea, who lives and works in London, which features 47 new paintings, as well as video works, and publications. Wood portrays the contemporary world to be simultaneously harmonious yet in disarray in her rather unsettling representations. Wood persistently follows and examines a range of subjects — antique artifacts, luxury goods worshiped by younger generations, sexual innuendos, and bizarre personal experiences — tracking them down to what compels her to depict them and ultimately synthesizing her findings in the form of paintings. Wood’s paintings, often imbued with dark and lowbrow humor, navigate between the infinitely unraveling reality and fleeting daydreams like anonymous direct messages on social media.

Her approach to painting proposes present-day anxieties that stem from the overabundance of choices and various extremisms that spread like viruses, while incorporating art historical motifs rooted in diverse cultural sources. Wood’s work, within contemporary painting, alludes to a new type of realism that embraces surrealism. Her uniquely spoken realism hints at the renewal of painting as a more progressive art form that hinges on figuration and expression at the same time. Wood draws from a wide range of historical European references, spanning from 14th-century medieval to 19th-century neoclassical paintings. Yet, technically, she creates a peculiar “anachronism” by blurring the surface, controlling the light as if applying a photo filter, and using heavy velvet as the substrate.

Typically, surrealism delves into the unconscious that governs the artist’s mind, into the chaos of potentiality. In contrast, Wood iconifies the images found in her surroundings yet in a surprisingly indifferent manner or with a vulnerable openness. The angst that overwhelms her from time to time arises out of everyday threats — the climate crisis, cultural regression, the art world, and vacuous political correctness — and, more than that, the excess of images and styles emerging from these concrete events. Wood’s paintings uniquely re-present the leaps and failures in the dense interaction between the artist and the external world instead of her repressed unconscious.

Find more stories

On View