Beauty’s only skin deep, we’re told. But the work of Josie McCoy tells a different story, as Barbara Hodgson explains.
THE glamorous world of art and super-stardom are expertly blended in an exhibition of rather beautiful paintings currently on show at Opus Gallery in Newcastle.
Featuring Hollywood actresses such as Angelina Jolie and Catherine Zeta Jones, artist Josie McCoy’s high-impact portraits are the result of an incredibly laborious process.
Working from photographs taken from the TV screen, she builds up the pictures in layers, using diluted oil paint almost like watercolour.
The skin tones she captures can be made up of four layers of paint while the eyes may take up to 18 or even 20 layers.
Her subjects are current screen icons, including Cate Blanchett and Catherine Zeta Jones, painted in the style of 1950s Hollywood sirens – a new direction for Josie, who graduated with a MA in fine art from Central St Martin’s College in London and has exhibited in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, and in Paris and Milan.
The blue skin tones in her pictures are intended to reflect the glare of the TV or video screen, as Josie is more interested in capturing the character than the actress. She says:
“Using oil paint like watercolour, I build up the paintings in thin layers to make the surface glow – an imitation of the cinema screen.
“The green hue references traditional techniques of painting, where green was used as under-painting to give luminosity to the surface colour. The blue hue suggests the glow of the screen on a viewer.”
Josie’s last show featured EastEnders characters and the BBC bought all of
them. One, a painting of Cindy Beale, featured throughout an episode of the TV soap. Her current Contemporary Icons exhibition shows personalities who are icons of the collective imagination in which the fusion between the identity of the artist and the character has become blurred.
Josie is said to celebrate the virtual, those who do not exist, so suspending a viewer’s disbelief and supplementing facts with questions, such as, ‘Are we looking at a character or an actor’? and, ‘Is it a painting or a photograph’?
Some of Josie’s older work is also in the show, at Opus Gallery, West Avenue, Gosforth, until December 10, which opens 10am-6pm.