“Her work’s way of quietly digging out unsettling truths about society has held the art world in thrall…Kevans’ work is approachable, unpretentious, and unexpectedly profound. These naively rendered, pastel-coloured paintings are like little warnings of just how easily our civilized veneer could crumble away.”
Nisha Lilia Diu, Telegraph
“Don’t be fooled by her wide-eyed adolescents: dark themes hide behind those soft brush strokes.”
Claire Sacre, Elle UK
“It’s testament to Kevans and her strange ability to get inside the headlines and emerge with art as beautiful as it is unsettling, that it’s awfully hard to think up a label for her. Is she a YBA? Portrait painter? Pop artist?...That sense of intimate encounter makes her work powerfully affecting.”
Olivia Cole, Daily Beast
“Annie Kevans has an eye for what makes an eye-catching portrait. Her oil-on-paper likenesses look simple, almost childlike, but they come with a sting in the tail… The works sound sensationalist, but Kevans' use of thinned oil paints on canvas paper gives her subjects a melancholic, dreamlike feel – all eerie wide eyes, drippy hair and smeary lips.”
Alice Jones, Independent
Since graduating from Central St. Martins in 2004, when Charles Saatchi bought her series of 30 paintings of dictators as young boys (‘Boys’), Kevans has had solo exhibitions in London, New York, Vienna, San Francisco, Antwerp and Vienna. She has exhibited in group shows at leading galleries and museums including the Barbican Art Gallery, the Royal Academy, the Saatchi Gallery, the Grand Palais in Paris, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Museum Dr Guislain in Gent, Beursschouwburg in Brussels and the Marres Centre for Contemporary Art in Maastricht.
Kevans has recently collaborated with Jean Paul Gaultier to produce a series of 32 paintings depicting his muses, including Kate Moss, Madonna, David Bowie and Amy Winehouse. Recently, Kevans received excellent reviews when her portrayal of forgotten female artists, ‘Women and the History of Art’, was shown in both London and San Francisco. She has been a finalist in the Women of the Future awards and a finalist in the Jerwood Drawing Prize. Her work can be found in major private and public collections including the Pallant House Gallery, the Saatchi Collection, SONS Museum (Belgium), the Sender Collection and the David Roberts Foundation.
Kevans’ paintings reflect her interests in power, manipulation and the role of the individual in inherited belief systems. She looks at alternative histories and how they relate to current issues and creates what she describes as ‘anti-portraits’ that may or may not be based on real documentation. She believes that, as her work is concept driven, sometimes the actual similarity to the person depicted in the work is irrelevant. This can be seen in her 'Boys' series which is not about portraying the dictators as they really looked as children but rather about the notion of the ‘innocent child’ which has influenced images of children in art since the Victorian times. Kevans believes that a person’s identity is not preset but is a shifting temporary construction and her work questions our verdicts on history and perceptions of intellectual solidity.
In 'All the Presidents’ Girls', a series featuring presidential mistresses, Kevans highlighted the manipulation of truth in the recording of history as well as in the creation of status and authority in ordinary men. Following on from this work, Kevans painted the illegitimate slave children of presidents such as Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler, alluding to the injustice and hypocrisy perpetrated by some of the most revered figures in American History. The works looked at issues surrounding racial conflict in the US and the ongoing denial of the horrors of slavery, at a time when the US elected its first black president.
Kevans uses our familiarity with portraiture and public figures to draw attention to the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. With her 'Collaborators' series, she profiles famous figures such as Coco Chanel and Gaston Louis Vuitton, revealing their secretive and little-known collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. With these works, the artist investigates collective memory and the manipulation of reputations to fit an ideal. The works in 'Girls', a series which looks at the sexualisation of childhood, see child stars such as Brooke Shields, Britney Spears and the Olsen twins take on an almost eerie appearance, their wide-eyed naivety counteracted by sensuously plump red lips and semi-nudity.
Having an affinity for the marginalised, Kevans paints figures overlooked, exploited, or objectified within the context of history or contemporary culture, imbuing her subjects with a tangible humanity and sensuality.
All images © Annie Kevans