Gallery Girl meets Isabel Getty

‘I’m a big fan of Egon Schiele’, says Isabel Getty, ‘I’ve always loved how he would play with different mediums and give a strong Byzantine effect to his work, making it almost child-like.’

From Isabel Getty’s 2018 summer show in London

Getty’s 2018 summer exhibition comprised two levels of figurative artworks. Encompassing paintings and drawings in ink, pencil and watercolours, the show first greeted the viewer with brightly coloured images of nude women in Paris, exotic beauties clothed in flours and hedonistic party scenes. Full of personality and confidence, Getty’s subject is nearly always feminine. ‘This show was centered around the female form’, she explains, with her women often appearing in contorted positions and with strong bone structure, not unlike Schiele. While her figures seem static, it is clear that they embody power, with many of her ladies depicted with a defiant stare.

From Isabel Getty’s 2018 summer show in London

While the form Getty’s work takes is striking, perhaps the most interesting quality to Getty’s work is the way in which she uses line to add body, movement and colour to her images. ‘I never went to art school’, explains Getty, ‘But the female form seemed the easiest way to develop my art skills and so I worked endlessly with different possibilities to present it.’ From a distance it looks as though she has painted in the different skin tones and shadows that give density to her figures, but look closely, and you will see that each limb has been carefully built up with many layers of fine line, not too dissimilar to the way in which Roy Lichtenstein ‘coloured in’ his infamous dot paintings.


The exhibition, which was split in half by a stairway between two galleries, seemed to carry two moods. Upstairs was light and airy, a flow of continuity from the hot summer London air, ushering the audience in with vibrant works like Bouji, Vagina Monologues and Gypsy Woman. Downstairs meanwhile, carried a darker, more serious atmosphere, with the display of a completely black and white body of work. Here, Getty introduces charcoal to some of the work, playing with shading in a way that may be described as slightly softer to the lines that are still present in nude images like Closer. The heavy use of black downstairs in the images that include the inclusion of straight lines to create depth, seems to mimic the crosshatching used in renaissance wood and metal prints, modernised here in Getty’s twenty-first century renderings.


Describing the difference between the brighter and darker works Getty explains: ‘The black and white images are strictly connected to personal thoughts, whilst the colourful pieces resonate with my life experiences rather than pure thoughts.’ It is interesting that Getty likens her black and white works to her own feelings, with these works seeming to command the room with a sense of raw honesty, which is different to the slightly more flamboyant work upstairs. The two modes of representation – colour and monochromatic – can also be compared to changes in weather. ‘The pieces are also closely linked with seasonal change’, adds Getty, ‘The darker pieces having been made during winter and the brighter ones during early fall and spring.’


Describing her approach to art, Getty says that many of the pieces represent personal feelings. ‘I always try to imagine what the feeling would look like in form’, she explains, ‘I prefer not to sketch out the piece first. I like to go straight into it with ink, watercolour and oil paint because a lot of times my mistakes have transformed the piece and trying to make something perfect seems very clinical to me.’ This honest and unreserved approach to art-making translates to the paper, where the energy and mood behind Getty’s brush can be felt in the gallery. Her focus on women is not only sympathetic to her own experiences, but also a means to experiment throughout her painting process. ‘The female form has more movement and less-angularity than a male form’ she explains, ‘So it seemed more accessible to experiment with it using different shapes, tonalities and mediums.’


What’s next for Getty? ‘I’m exhibiting a piece this summer at the British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park along with Damian Hirst and Yoko Ono which I’m extremely excited about!’, she says. ‘I’m also releasing a new EP in July and have started a collection of art pieces to go along to my music’, she adds. Getty was a soul and jazz singer growing up and has been releasing a lot of indie-soul music. In the autumn she plans to combine her love of both visual arts and music through an exhibition based around her new EP Growth, ‘The exhibition will expand on personal development within my art work’, she explains, ‘Because the subject matter is completely different and each piece connects to the next to create a visual story.’

Isabel Getty is an artist who depicts women, using the female figure to experiment with tone, line and feeling. Through ink, watercolour and charcoal, Getty illustrates females throughout different moods and seasons, building a portfolio that is sympathetic to art history and forward thinking in her choice of subject matter and energy. Passionate about both visual art and music, her future is sure to be creative on multiple levels.

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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