Friday, 30 July 2010


If I offend dog lovers by dressing pooches up in frocks, I am only using these sad little confections as a metaphor for what we tend to do with our human pets.

That Pinking Feeling

Pink is a delicious colour but little girls, particularly the ‘tween’ market, are bombarded with pink merchandising opportunities that dominate their wardrobes, their accessories, their worlds.  This seems to pose no other narrative, no other gender choice than a ‘girliness’ that is becoming commodified and toxic: contaminated with sentimentality, anxiety and a sophistication that only accelerates the loss of childhood innocence.

Most of these paintings were made for an exhibition at Southampton Solent University in 2008.  The horrible phenomenon of the beauty pageant was an insistent idea behind this somewhat uncomfortable project.  

Caged Bird

Candy Lamb

Are You Sure You Really Love Me?

 Bunny Cuddles

Play Time

All images © Rosie West


  1. Rose, I'm quite taken aback - not with your talent, I hasten to add, but with the way you have encapsulated a whole sociological essay in paint. The Celt and I were discussing this very thing the other night when we for a few minutes watched a program about one six-year -old's transformation into an object of her mother's ambition. The child's father was wheeled in front of the camera and in his inarticulate way mumbled about it being fine and dandy.

  2. The violets and pinks work well with this.
    I always wondered at what point does the fetishization of female children begin to carry over into adult fashion. The whole pageant mindset here can functionally be reduced to its nightclub analogue, the wet T-shirt competition.
    On an almost related note, you got me thinking about ballet the other day. There are a few where the music and dance work together pretty much seamlessly, but I discovered that isn't the case with one of the pieces of music I've listened to obsessively over the years:

    Prokofiev said they even tried to figure out a way to let Juliet live in order to avoid this, and if Shakespeare had seen the results, he'd probably have agreed. I know this is difficult dancing, and well done in a technical way, but it reminds me of a skit from the old Sid Caesar show.

  3. Oh thank you, Blue. I am glad you get it. There is a lot that should be said on this subject and I tried to come at it obliquely. Nobody is going to put these paintings on their walls but that wasn't the point.

  4. rurritable, your wet T-shirt analogy is spot on. As for Romeo & Juliet which I have just looked at, it is a truly pathetic and bathetic soundtrack to the action. Rather you than me listen to this music more than once. Philistine that I am. And Romeo's pants are somewhat tragic too.

  5. it certainly is about loss. a parent has to have lost her looks, her self, and the child has certainly lost a childhood- it is much the same with a child in front of a tv, a wii, driven from sport to sport to class to class. Dress up for adulthood it would seem. I think this form of punishment depicted here so skillfully by you Rose-is just the lowest of the low. It is just harder to recognize in its other forms and more easily accepted. pgt

  6. I think the good news is that some kids grow out of it.

  7. Dare I make the suggestion that Candy Lamb is easily one of the most sinister images I've seen in a very long time?
    (That was a compliment, in case you wondered.)

  8. TW: I take it as a compliment, thank you. This work was never intended to be comfortable and sinister will do just fine for me.

  9. Maritime observer4 August 2010 at 14:11

    R-C-L-V! I value the opportunity to see your original art-works. Of those you have posted here the one which most holds my attention is that which you have titled Bunny Cuddles. The others bring to mind the ambience of Warhol and related artists - but from me that is not really a compliment. You yourself seem aware that some readers may share a similar response when you use the phrese this somewhat uncomfortable project.

    Looking over your 'blog' has prompted me to reflect more carefully on what I regard as 'good art' and why. If I may I will name one artist whose work I have always greatly liked and admired -
    Mervyn Peake.

  10. Maritime, I agree - what's not to like about a furry bunny? But of course, I set it in the context of a more adult bunny icon. The painting language, or style, that I use helps to reference my subject - essentially the exploitation of childhood. I looked at the illustration in kids' magazines - hence the BRATZ eyes in the surgical nurse, for instance (foreshadowing a desire for plastic surgery). There is a sleaziness in the painting of the girls in bikinis; the Caged Bird has an almost Ladybird book illustration feel which I hope makes a contrast between the supposed innocence of the little girl, the bland ignorance of the mother and the ghastliness of what they're doing. I try to make social commentary in these ways. This aspect of my work is, I suppose, 'conceptual'.

    This is not groundbreaking work but artists have always aspired to push boundaries. I wonder what would have happened over the centuries if they hadn't. Remember how shocking the Impressionists once were. Leave me out of the debate as I make no claims for myself, but good art 'shakes down' over the years and becomes more widely recognised as such. A lot of the chaff has blown away by then and the wheat remains!

    I think Mervyn Peake is a very good artist but I don't happen to like his gothic subject matter at all. That's just me.

  11. I love the expressions and the colours. Your work has wit and humour xx

  12. Maritime observer5 August 2010 at 21:22

    Renewed greetings to R-C-L-V. Many thanks for such a thoughtful and considered response to my previous message. I rather doubt that I deserved it. What you would seem to indicate to me is that your work is, in a conscious sense, purposeful (although you do not use that word)and that you beleive wholly in the validity of that purpose.

    In that context it would seem to be appropriate to refer to the Impressionists - Van Goch in particular. He is an artist I can like, without restraint, for both his technique and his content.



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