I am a big fan of art history but I always feel it’s good to get a fresh perspective on it from time to time. In many ways, that’s what the work of British painter Holly Frean is about. Instead of the often po-faced and straight-laced world we know, she playfully distorts it, creating familiar images that are wryly observed and fantastically witty.
Take for example the image at the top of the post. Entitled Woman with Cat, after Gwen John’s Woman Holding a Black Cat of 1920-5, this painting takes John’s original work and imagines what it may have looked like if the woman’s cat had been a little less well behaved. The chances are that during Gwen John’s sitting the cat didn’t behave itself so well either.
The range of playful images Frean creates really is terrific. In some of her paintings she highlights the daily mundane lives that many great artists must have lived, while in other images she playfully subverts iconic images, showing – for example – the Mona Lisa in plaits or Van Gough’s famous sunflowers now wilted.
Imaginative, whimsical and light-hearted, Frean style is succinct, capturing every necessary detail on her small canvases and displaying true draftsmanship. She has exhibited extensively in America and the UK and currently has an exhibition at Gails Bakery in London. She will also be showing at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York this October. More information and images of her work can be found on her website here.