Introducing Aileen McEwen to the Gallery Program!

The Cynthia Corbett Gallery is proud  to announce a new addition to the gallery program and the Young Masters Art Prize Tour, Aileen McEwen! Aileen is an incredible, impressionistic painter whose work dialogues with notions of beauty, taste and value. She will be a perfect addition to the tour and is definitely an artist to look out for!

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I am interested in cultural definitions of beauty, taste and value, focusing on the play between individuality and the wider regulative forces of society. My work engages with illusion and desire as it relates to domestic interiors as a symbol of culturally defined, aspirational living. The work takes the form of paintings depicting interior spaces that appear staged or false. They are hazy and dreamlike, atmospheric, opulent and gleaming, and evoke something remembered or desired but inauthentic. A focus on palette, brushwork, thin glazes of paint and surface, alongside this representation of space, asks the viewer to engage with the aspiration of the idealised depiction whilst simultaneously conceding the artifice of the painting and the inauthenticity of both the narrative and the imagery.

“Beautiful art sell. If it sells itself, it is an idolatrous commodity; if it sells anything else, it is a seductive advertisement […] with the caveat that idolatry and advertising are, indeed, art, and that the greatest works of art are always and inevitably a bit of both”1

I am engaged in the precarious practice of creating objects of value that could adorn one of the spaces they represent. The paintings reach a decorative apotheosis, being as they are desirable objects in their own right and function as totems of aspiration and prescribed cultural ideals.

“it is also a picture work whose credibility largely derives from its feeling like the sum of all those images […] one has already seen […] An illusion that -unlike a copy- is superior to reality in that it recreates and perfects the original.” 2

The images are sourced from interior design magazines, advertisements, and catalogues and thereby retain a sense of the staged inauthenticity inherent in these mediums.Ubiquitous in contemporary culture, these are spaces we are collectively familiar with but rarely experience. These images are visually coded as distanced; the gloss of the magazine or the gleam of the objects depicted forms a barrier between them and the audience. By translating these images to paint, the spaces are removed one step further from reality and from their purpose as dwellings,yet the materiality and imperfection of the medium, paradoxically, makes them all the more familiar. The figures inhabiting a small number of the spaces mimic the objects that surround them and mirror the passivity of the viewer, as distanced from the environment, whilst drawing attention to the stillness of the paintings they do not inhabit.

I am interested in the semiotics of colour and the conventions of decoration and have explored the complex rules and systems surrounding choices of house paint. Specific names and suggested colour combinations associated with Farrow and Ball emulsion3 highlight its aspirational value and yet, as a medium, it is less refined than oils and forces a clumsier application of paint. In using this paint to create spaces that conform to these aspirational values I hope to confront the ambiguity of my own engagement with these ideals.

The matte predefined colours of the house paints sit alongside saturated jewel-tones and soft muted palettes. Throughout the work these considered, almost super-realistic, palettes relate to the specificity of light within the spaces depicted. The internal glow in many of the works, glimpsed through layers of paint, is as much created by light as describing it. Delicate brushwork, detail and glossy surface evoke a sense of value, making the small-scale works desirable objects in their own right. The looser washes and bolder application of paint in the large-scale works allows them to inhabit space. It is the tension between these elements that embodies the inauthenticity of the representation and the illusion inherent in the tradition of painting.

1Hickey, Enter the Dragon: On the Vernacular of Beauty, Beauty, David Beech, Whitechapel Press, London pg 26

2Berg, Stephan, The Dark Side of the American Dream, Gregory Crewdson, Ostfildern-Ruit; Portchester (2005)

3Valued for its historical accuracy, depth of colour and pigmentation

Cynthia Corbett Gallery

TEL +44(0)20 89476782,


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