Based in Valencia and originally from England, Josie McCoy is a distinctive artist and is part of a new exhibition of artists entitled ‘Juxtaposing the Random’ at ‘Bloom Gallery’ from 12 January 2024 in Ruzafa (Valencia). Josie McCoy was born in Plymouth in 1969 and currently lives and works in Valencia, Spain. She graduated from the MA Fine Art course at Central Saint Martin’s, London, in 1999, and has since widely exhibited her painted portraits of iconic female characters from film and television.
She has had solo shows in London, Milan, Santiago de Compostela and Valencia. Recent individual exhibitions include ‘Muses, Mothers, Magicians and Murderers’ at Centro Cultural Melchor Zapata, Benicássim (2021) and ‘The Muses of Josie McCoy’ at Sala de Exposiciones El Oscurico in Buñol Castle, Spain (2021). McCoy has participated in numerous group shows worldwide, in the UK, Europe, South America and the U.S, recently in Dirty Pink at Il Conventino, Florence (2022), and A Generous Space 3 at Huddersfield Art Gallery, Huddersfield (2023). Her paintings have been selected four times for the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London and she was shortlisted for the Castellon International Painting Prize, Spain. She received a Woo Charitable Foundation Arts Bursary and was awarded first prize for the Centre of Attention Painting Prize. McCoy’s paintings are included in private and public collections including the BBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Collection of the University of Wales, The Centre of Attention Permanent Collection, Jeremy Mogford Collection, Borchard Collection of British Self-Portraits in the 20th Century and the Ofelia Martín & Javier Núñez Collection.
24/7 VALENCIA: COULD YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR ART?
JOSIE McCOY: “The idea of the female gaze is central to my painted portraits of iconic female characters from film and television. I’m mesmerised by the power these characters hold in the collective psyche. I have been painting such portraits since the start of my career over 23 years ago. While my way of painting has developed over the years and the subjects have changed with time, I’m still compelled to portray strong women from popular culture.
For the final exhibition of my master’s degree at Central Saint Martin’s, London in 1999, I painted a series of female characters from my favourite British soap opera: I knew they would be accessible and familiar and I wanted the viewer to engage with the painted versions of these assertive women in the same way as I did. Historically, portraits have often represented wealthy people. So, it was refreshing to paint working-class subjects instead.
Film and TV characters can act as means of communication and connection. I am fascinated in what viewers bring with them or project onto them in terms of their personal memories and references. When looking at a painting of someone they recognise, the line between fiction and reality can become blurred. When more people connect with the character, the shared experience also creates a bond. I focus on strong female subjects in response to the way women have been represented throughout art history, where they have been the ‘passive’ subject of art. In my paintings, I aim to present them as active protagonists with agency and power.
Each of my works begins with a film still, which is projected onto canvas, then meticulously painted. I aim to create a conversation between old master techniques, contemporary photography and projection. The making reflects the psychological projection of our desires onto the subject. Light is significant throughout the process, from source photo to colour palette. Using oil paint like watercolour to build my portraits in thin layers of diluted paint, makes the surface of the paintings glow in an imitation of the cinema screen. I use Verdaccio, a green skin colour to reference traditional painting techniques, which gives luminosity to the flesh tone. I also use pale blue, to imply the gleam of a television on someone watching. The contrast of the muted, pastel shades of the skin with the pure pigment colours of the eyes and mouth is striking.
The work explores the relationship between painting and cinema, trying to capture, as Barthes says in Mythologies, ‘that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasies’. I want the viewer to lose themselves in the complexity and emotion of the human face. Another important aspect is creating a visual dynamic between paintings as well as the paintings and the audience. I usually hang my work so that the subjects of the paintings look at each other and the viewer can interact with their gaze. Whether the viewer is familiar with the character governs how the paintings are read individually or in dialogue within a space.
I am currently working on a new series of paintings continuing with the idea of the female gaze, featuring contemporary female characters from film and TV. These portraits challenge traditional depictions of women in art, empowering them as active protagonists.”
Report by ‘24/7 Valencia’ team
Article copyright ’24/7 Valencia’
Artwork by Josie McCoy: ‘Raimunda IV (Volver)’, 2021, Oil on canvas 135 x 135cm.
More info about the artist Josie McCoy:
‘Juxtaposing the Random’ exhibition opens on Jan 12 @ 7:30 pm
Calle Luis Oliag 17,