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“Fresh, unpredictable and cutting edge”: The 80 year old winner of the John Moores Painting Prize

by on September 22, 2014

A couple of years ago on this blog I pondered the connection between age, work and visibility (here), and wondered whether some forms of work (such as art or writing) allowed for greater age invisibility. I picked up on Rose Wylie who at the time was 77 and had been described as an up and coming artist.

So I was delighted to hear on last Friday’s edition of BBC Radio 4 Front Row that Rose Wylie – now aged 80 – has just won a prestigious art award, the John Moores Prize. In this piece in The Telegraph, she is reported as saying: “My sort of age group don’t think about recognition, we just think about getting on with the work. This sudden interest is peculiar and it’s certainly unexpected, but it’s wonderful.” It  also reports that – rather refreshingly given the numerous ways in which older age is euphemised – she describes herself as ‘blinking old‘.

Regular readers of the blog will know that we have highlighted the (problematic) age limit of 40 applied to the Fields Medal in mathematics. In contrast to this and the Turner Prize, which excludes artists over the age of 50, the John Moores Prize, founded in 1957 and part of the Liverpool Biennial arts festival, has no upper age limit.

Sandra Penketh, director of Liverpool’s art galleries, said: “Rose’s personal story is very exciting. At 80 years old she happens to be double the average age of previous winners. Her style is fresh, unpredictable and cutting edge.” How many times have we seen those characteristics attributed to the work of someone aged 80? Will we see more linguistic associations between older age and potentiality / newness / fashion?

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