Nina Mae Fowler (British)
Known for her sumptuously detailed large-scale drawings and installations, Nina Mae Fowler’s work interrogates themes of celebrity, beauty, power and sexuality. Preoccupied with Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, Fowler treats the period as a crucible of our own, revelling in its sheer visual richness at the same time as it critiques our culture’s obsession with stardom, as well as the ubiquitous presence of the photographic lens in the reception of imagery.
In 2019, Fowler was awarded a major commission for The National Portrait Gallery. Entitled ‘Luminary Drawings’, the series comprises nine portraits of leading British Film Directors which now form part of the museums permanent collection, including Sam Mendes, Ken Loach, Nick Park and Sally Potter.
Since her nomination for the BP Portrait Prize in 2008, Fowler’s work has won widespread acclaim. It is featured in numerous collections of international significance and in 2015 a monograph of her work entitled Measuring Elvis was published by Cob Gallery, London. The book features
a commentary from an array of cultural luminaries including the curator Sandy Nairne and the playwright Polly Stenham. Her most recent publication Ruined Finery (Cob Gallery 2020) catalogues Fowler’s drawing and sculpture practice from 2015-2020 alongside contributions from writers including Alissa Bennett and Dame Marina Warner.
Nina Mae Fowler (b.1981) has been shortlisted for numerous prestigious prizes and awards, including the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2015 & 2010), Aesthetica Art Prize (2014), Drawing Now Award (2014), Young Masters Prize (2012) and the BP Portrait Award (2008). Her works have been exhibited internationally, including frequent solo exhibitions in London, Paris and Leipzig, and are held in public collections including New, Bailliol and Magdalene Colleges (Oxford, UK), The National Portrait Gallery (London, UK), the ‘Try-me’ collection, a public foundation in Richmond (Virginia, USA) and Fondation d’entreprise Francès (France). In 2018, David Lynch’s establishment Silencio in Paris held a retrospective of Fowler’s work. She is included in private collections throughout Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia. International film, art, music and fashion luminaries such as Sir Ridley Scott, Jude Law, Caroline Issa, Daniel Templon, Laurant Dumas, Roland Mouret and John Maybury are amongst her collectors.
There She Is (Part I & II)
There she is: Parts I & II’ came about after watching the 2017 documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. The stills are taken from a shaky, hand-held video clip towards the end of Hedy’s life, by which time she was completely reclusive. You can hear the voice of her son, who holds
the camera, saying the words “there she is” as she walks into the room, a phrase I imagine she heard many times as one of the worlds most beautiful women. Her face is devastated by plastic surgeries, many of which she had designed herself before such procedures were commonplace. As well as being a highly respected actress she also had a formidable scientific mind and was arguably responsible for inventing the early framework of ‘Bluetooth’ technology.
In the background of the drawings we catch a glimpse of a framed photo of herself and Clark Gable, many moons ago. She still holds herself with elegance and poise but she has been relegated into the shadows along with her fading looks and celebrity, only communicating with the outside world via telephone to avoid being seen. I used coloured pencil to heighten the intensity and rawness I felt pervaded this scenario.