Stella Vine

(b. 1969)

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Charles Saatchi (b. 1943)

Tracey Emin (b. 1963)

Germaine Greer (b. 1939) Australian feminist and writer

modern art


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(1969– )

British painter, born in Alnwick, Northumberland, as Melissa Robinson. She changed her name in 1995. After a career as actress, cleaner, waitress and stripper she studied at Hampstead School of Art in the late 1990s. She first came to public attention when Charles Saatchi bought two of her paintings for his ‘New Blood’ exhibition in 2004. One of these depicted Princess Diana. The artist had just read a newspaper report in which Paul Burrell, Diana's butler, revealed a letter in which she spoke of her fears of assassination. Some of the power of the picture derives from the disjunction between the royal accoutrements (Diana has her tiara) and the desperate inscription: ‘Hi Paul, can you come over? I'm really frightened.’ The subject of the other painting was even more contentious. Rachel showed the drug addict Rachel Whitear, whose death had caused anguished national debate. The faces of both subjects had blood dripping from their mouths. Not only the subject but the artistic merit of the paintings was attacked. Dave Lee wrote that ‘you could laugh it off as the work of somebody who lived on a council estate’, giving vent to the kind of class prejudice most critics today make some attempt to self-censor. An alternative view might be to see Vine as directly in the line of Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin (both of whom she reveres), a female artist who rawly exposes emotions and anxieties. She has also spoken of the singer P J Harvey as an influence. Vine's initial success and acclaim were followed by a difficult period of financial problems and drug addiction. However, controversy has given way to a certain art world acceptance. An exhibition of her paintings was held at Modern Art, Oxford, in 2007 with a catalogue introduced by Germaine Greer.

Further Reading

L. Barber, ‘Vine Times’, The Observer (8 July 2007)

Subjects: Art.

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