Stella Vine

Stella Vine
Stella Vine

Stella Vine in 2001
Birth name Melissa Jane Robson
Born 1969 (1969)
Alnwick, Northumberland, England
Nationality English
Field Painting
Training Academy of Live and Recorded Arts

Stella Vine (born Melissa Jane Robson, 1969) is an English artist, who lives and works in London. Her work is figurative painting with subject matter drawn from either her personal life of family, friends and school, or rock stars, royalty and celebrities.

After a difficult relationship with her stepfather, she left home and in her teens, had a son, with whom she moved from Northumberland to London. She worked in various jobs, including as a waitress, stripper and cleaner. She joined the NYT (National Youth Theatre of Britain) in 1983, and studied for three years at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts 1987–1990.

In 1999 – 2001,[1] she took her son to painting classes at the Hampstead School of Art, where she found her own vocation as a painter.[2] In 2001, she was exhibited by the Stuckists group, which she joined for a short time; she was married briefly to the group co-founder, Charles Thomson.

In 2003, she opened her own gallery Rosy Wilde in East London. In 2004, Charles Saatchi bought Hi Paul can you come over I'm really frightened (2003), a painting by her of Diana, Princess of Wales, which provoked media controversy, as did a subsequent painting of drug victim, Rachel Whitear. There was a dispute with the Stuckists, who said they had influenced her work; Vine said they had not.

Later work has included Kate Moss as a subject, as in Holy water cannot help you now (2005). In 2005, another painting of Diana, Princess of Wales, Murdered, pregnant and embalmed (2005) was bought by George Michael. In 2006, she re-opened her gallery in Soho, London.

The first major show of her work was held in 2007 at Modern Art Oxford, which won over some previously hostile critics. Germaine Greer gave a public talk at the museum about Vine's work and wrote an essay for the exhibition catalogue. The Financial Times, said Vine's scrutiny of the cult of celebrity as contemporary fairy tale was descended from the same tradition as Andy Warhol and Hans Christian Andersen.[3] In the same year, Vine provided clothing designs for Topshop. In 2009, the Oxford Union Society announced they had invited Stella Vine to debate on 19 February.[4]


Life and career

Early life

Stella Vine was born in Alnwick, seen behind the Alnwick Castle

Stella Vine was born Melissa Jane Robson in Alnwick, Northumberland, England. Her name was changed to Melissa Jordan after her stepfather's name; she subsequently changed it to Stella Vine in 1995, inspired by Andy Warhol names, as "I didn't feel like I belonged to either of my fathers' families."[5] She lived with her mother who was a seamstress and her grandmother who was a secretary. Her mother remarried when she was seven, and they relocated to Norwich.[6]

Vine said she was, "making things and performing music and plays, as far back as I can remember."[7] When she was a child, she used to make water colours in the library, painting Queen Victoria, and copying the Pre-Raphaelites and Greek Mythology.[7]

She loved the TV series Bagpuss, and said as an adult that the words and tunes were still in her head: "It had a dark edge to it – it filled your imagination."[8] In 1981, she won a silver cup for "most original act" for a mime in a talent competition at the Norwich Theatre Royal.[9]

After a difficult relationship with her stepfather, she left home aged 13. Vine lived in the infamous[10] Argyle Street squat before being briefly fostered in Brixton,[7] London but her new foster parents were unable to cope with her wilfulness.[11] Vine then moved back to Norwich, to teach herself in the Norwich Reference Library. The "resourceful" young Vine asked for advice on home education from an old lady at the local CAB.[7] She moved into a bedsit on St Stephen's Street, Norwich, where she started a relationship with a 24-year-old caretaker. Two years later she became pregnant. Vine's first job was at age 14 in a local Norwich cake shop.[12] Vine also signed on for the dole pretending to be aged 19 under the name of Jane Blackford, explaining she’d lost her birth certificate.[11]


At the age of 17, she gave birth to a son, Jamie,[2] moving with him into a home for single parents called Umbrella Housing.[7] and then to London, where Vine joined the NYT (National Youth Theatre of Britain) in 1983, and the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, London, 1987–1990. They moved to Tooting in 1987 and her son went to a Montessori nursery school.[7]

She lived with musician Ross Newell, "the love of her life" for over four years, but "stupidly" left him for another relationship; two years later she wanted to restart the relationship with Newell, but he no longer trusted her.[13] In 2004, by which time Newell was settled in a marriage with children, Vine said that he was still her "soul mate".[13] Describing how she decided to become an artist and what inspired her, Vine said a "wonderful ex-boyfriend" called Ross had always told her she should become a painter, and that she had always made "crazy doodles", but her ambition at that time was to be Bette Davis, Poison Ivy or Joan Littlewood.[14] In 2004, Vine painted all three.[15]

For five years she also performed as an actress, touring provincial theatres around the UK,[16] as well as running her own improvised theatre company, Minx Productions, and playing with her band, Victoria Falls. Vine said it was difficult to tour with a small child but earned her Equity Card by performing with Durham Theatre Company. Amongst other roles, she played Barclay in What The Butler Saw at Theatre Clwyd, The National Theatre of Wales: she was a fan of playwright Joe Orton, whom she discovered at drama school.[7] Vine said she would wake up early and dance to songs by PJ Harvey before improvising around her character to prepare for each day's rehearsals.[7] Vine remembers seeing "wonderful paintings by Gainsborough"[7] whilst rehearsing at Kenwood House, London.

In the late 1980s, Vine met the film director Mike Leigh. After seeing Mike Leigh's film Meantime, it became her ambition to direct and act in improvised films. When Vine was in her early twenties she auditioned for him twice.[7] Leigh said to her: "I can understand why you want to be other people."[7] Vine later said of her paintings that they are perhaps her "other people".[7] Waldemar Januszczak said her artwork was "method painting: painted projections of herself" as in the Stanislavski system.[11]

The Windmill Club, where Vine worked as a stripper.[11]

In 1995,[2] she abandoned her ambitions to be an actress and became a hostess in a Mayfair club, where most of the activity was talking, often to elderly men, and "Any negotiation for sexual favours, or your time, or conversation, was very old-fashioned. Very English."[11] Using the name "Stella Vine", she became a lap dancer, drinking vodka to overcome the difficulty of approaching customers, but being comfortable on stage, where she performed "incredibly erotically",[11] while also often feeling like a social worker.[13] She worked as a stripper at Miranda's[11] and later at the Windmill Club in Soho to pay the rent, whilst living with her son in bedsits.[11]

One man she met, whom she described as a "sugar daddy"[6] and with whom she was still in contact in 2007, looked after her for six years, and in 1998 took her to New York, where he introduced her to the Frick Collection.[11] She recalled in 2007 that "the candy coloured" room of Gainsborough proved such a rush of excitement that she had to sit down. Vine said she had a hidden desire for "pretty, pretty things, and there it was in all its glory."[17] Januszczak said that this was the moment Vine "realised how much prettiness was possible in art."[11]

Vine took her son out of school because he had been bullied and educated him at home. From 1999 or 2000 (dates vary)[18] until 2001, she enrolled him for part-time evening painting classes at Hampstead School of Art, an unfunded, non-profit making charity.[19] Vine wanted to vary his lessons[2] and make life as fun as possible for her son, but he didn’t like going to the classes,[11] so she took his place instead and found her vocation as a painter.[2] Paintings done at the school included portrait heads.[20]

The Stuckists

Stella Vine (right) with Charlotte Gavin (left) and Joe Machine at the Vote Stuckist show in 2001.[21]

Vine developed a "crush" on Billy Childish, and attended his music events;[11] in June 2000, she went to a talk given by him and fellow Stuckist co-founder, Charles Thomson, on Stuckism. She met Thomson[11] on 30 May 2001 at the Vote Stuckist show in Brixton; she exhibited some of her paintings publicly for the first time in the show and formed The Westminster Stuckists group.[21] On 4 June, she took part in a Stuckist demonstration.[22][23] On 10 July, she renamed her group The Unstuckists.[24][25] In October, there was a Vine painting in the first Stuckist show in Paris.[22]

She had a two month relationship with Thomson and they married on 8 August 2001 in New York.[26] two days later they had an intense row;[27][28][29] she left him and they did not meet again till a week later in London.[29] They split up after about two months,[6] and were divorced in October 2003.[2]

In February 2004, when Vine "rose to fame after being championed by Charles Saatchi",[30] Thomson said that it was he and the Stuckists, not Saatchi, who had "discovered" Vine.[31] In March 2004, Vine said that she had only seen Thomson once in the previous two years, in an art shop,[28] and that she married him because this had been a condition of his paying off her debts of £20,000.[28]

Vine's marriage to Charles Thomson in 2001 lasted two months.[6]

Thomson said that this had been part of a business arrangement to promote themselves as an art couple, and that there had been no condition of marriage.[32] She later told The Times that it was "impossible to explain"[33] why she married Thomson:[33] "When I met him and he saw some of my history, he saw dollar signs."[33] Thomson said that she avoided reality: "Now it makes me question a lot of things she told me about her past."[27]

On 28 March 2004, Thomson reported Saatchi to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for alleged breaches of the Competition Act and cited as an example Saatchi's promotion of Vine.[34] The OFT did not uphold the complaint.[35] In September 2004, Vine threatened suicide if her work was included in the The Stuckists Punk Victorian show at the Liverpool Biennial; the owner of the painting withdrew it.[36]

In October 2006, The Stuckist group show, Go West, at Spectrum London gallery, included two paintings by Thomson, which were "explicit images of his ex-wife."[37] Vine said she had no comment.[37] In February 2008, Stuckist artist, Mark D (real name Mark Randall) opened a show of satirical paintings based on Vine's work."[38] Several years previously, Randall had attempted to buy a painting from Vine, who told him, "Go fuck yourself", when she found out he had a link with Thomson.[38] In September, Thomson criticised the Tate gallery for not representing enough figurative painters, among whom he listed Vine,[39] and said she should have been a Turner Prize nominee for her show at Modern Art Oxford.[40]

In 2002 – 2003, Vine studied Philosophical Aesthetics with Johnathan Lahey Dronsfield at Birkbeck College whilst also attending the course Performance After Warhol with Professor Gavin Butt in 2002, and Women's Work with Kathy Battista at Tate Modern. She said she also found much of her art education through the Serpentine Gallery bookshop and became involved with East London artist-run galleries.[14]

Rosy Wilde and Saatchi

In 2003, she opened the Rosy Wilde gallery on Whitecross Street in east London. Vine bought the former butchers shop and converted it herself into a gallery space that exclusively held exhibitions of contemporary art by emerging artists.[41] Vine lived and worked in a studio above the artist-run gallery[14] whilst her son lived in the basement.[2]

Vine's mother, who had been ill with Crohn's disease, died suddenly from bowel cancer[16] around this time which led to Vine's high creative drive and the creation of her darkest paintings.[42]

Vine painted 30 pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales in 2003.[28]

In November 2003 she made the first of her Diana, Princess of Wales paintings and those of teenage girls like Rachel Whitear who suffered tragic deaths. She painted as many as 30 of Diana alone, having become fascinated by conspiracy theories into the Princess' tragic car crash which she had read on the Internet.[28] Vine destroyed many of these paintings soon after they were created.[43] She put them all, apart from one, in a skip as she did not have enough space to dry nor store the wet paintings.[28]

The gallery was on the verge of bankruptcy, when Charles Saatchi purchased her painting of Diana, Princess of Wales Hi Paul can you come over I'm really frightened (2003), showing the Princess with heavy eyes and blood on from her lips. The work's title came from the thick red text painted across the canvas, a reference to Diana's butler Paul Burrell. Thanks to the Saatchi purchase, Vine said she could pay the bills by painting and she did not need more than that.[28] The price of her paintings "doubled virtually overnight".[44]

Saatchi had discovered the painting in a show called Girl on Girl in Cathy Lomax's Transition Gallery, which is housed in a converted garage in Hackney. Vine had originally wanted to price the painting at £100.[45] Lomax described the painting:

Stella Vine's work deals with her fascination with the trashy and the dark. Underlying this is a sometimes contradictory love for her subjects. Hi Paul can you come over... examines that pivotal moment in the standing of the British Monarchy, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the horror of her crash. All the conspiracy theories are summed up in this painting as a wild eyed and tiara clad Diana cries for help whilst painterly blood drips from her luscious lips.[46] Vine said in 2007 that she had always been drawn to "the beauty and the tragedy of Diana’s life".[43]

As Saatchi anticipated, much of the media attacked the work in his New Blood exhibition, creating a considerable return in publicity for his investment.[47] Media coverage focused on the controversial nature of the painting, as well as the fact that the painting had been bought for only £600 from an unknown artist, who was a single mother and an ex-stripper. In its first 21 days the show had 56,000 visitors, more than had previously seen shows by both The Chapman Brothers and Damien Hirst.[48] Saatchi hit back at critics saying he was being cast as "a pantomime villain".[48] Saatchi also backed up his choice of art works by saying it was mindless to dismiss the art he chose to show, just because it was him showing it.[48] He also defended his choice to show Vine's work, saying many critics knew "remarkably little about new art, can't cope without their PC guidebook or a press release and are always, but always, 10 years late getting their heads around anything new."[48]

Vine's portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, Hi Paul can you come over I'm really frightened, (2003) was bought by Charles Saatchi.

A subsequent purchase by Saatchi of Vine's painting of Rachel Whitear (also with blood running from the mouth) created further media reaction, as Whitear was a former drug user, whose body was due for exhumation.[49] Vine refused to acquiesce to the parents' request, backed by the police, not to exhibit the painting, then on view in the Saatchi Gallery in the New Blood show during March 2004. Saatchi had delegated to her the decision to keep the work on display or withdraw it. Emma Saunders of the BBC said, "whatever the rights and wrongs of displaying such work, the images are startlingly beautiful"[50] Vine discussed the controversy surrounding her Rachel (2003) painting on BBC Radio 4's programme Front Row[51]

In 2004, David Lee, editor of The Jackdaw magazine,[52] attacked Charles Saatchi's New Blood exhibition for having "promoted a rotten, talentless painter called Stella Vine to public notoriety"[53] and Richard Dorment, The Daily Telegraph critic, said: "It's trash. It is another stab at creating the visual equivalent of tabloid journalism."[31] Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times critic singled her out for praise in his otherwise hostile review of the Saatchi Gallery's New Blood show in 2004, and later said, "although I didn’t much want to like Vine’s contribution, I found I did. It had something." Alex Michon, in an essay for the Prozac and Private Views catalogue, said that Adrian Searle of The Guardian was one of the only critics to acknowledge that he had been evaluating a reproduction of Vine's painting.[54] Searle wrote: "I can't tell from the reproductions of her work I have seen whether it is an act of balderdash, good painting or bad, bad painting; but it is clear that Vine knows the difference."[55] Vine said she was upset that some people, including her relatives, didn't like her image of Diana, as she believe it was not a disrespectful picture but it was in fact a self portrait as much as depiction of Diana: "The picture is about two women. One who lived in Kensington Palace. And the other who lives down the Whitecross Street. "I look at the picture," says Vine, "and I also see myself.""[28]

June – July 2004, Vine held her first solo exhibition, Prozac and Private Views, at Transition Gallery, London, featuring new paintings such as Geri (2004)[15] of popstar Geri Halliwell, Ted (2004) of Ted Hughes[56] and two self-portraits of Vine as a child Melissa pink dress (2004)[57] and Baby (Baby Melissa) (2004).[15] The show included two Vine sculptures including Sylvia cooker (2004), a gas cooker with enamel painting of Sylvia Plath on its door.[58] Vine was interviewed about the exhibition by Jenni Murray for BBC Radio 4's programme Woman's Hour.[59]

On 1 July 2004, one of Vine's paintings Kitten (2004) was stolen from the exhibition at 1.30 pm.[58] Cathy Lomax, who was invigilating at the time, called the police who said there was little chance of finding it.[60] The Hackney Gazette, The East London Advertiser and Flash Art reported the theft. Vine commented: "I am sad as Kitten was one of my favourite paintings, and also because it had been promised to a young American couple, who had been waiting for a painting for some time. I hope that whoever stole it, stole it because they loved it, and not because of all the hype."[60]

In September 2004, Vine went back to her home town of Alnwick, where she donated 3 paintings to the Bailiffgate Museum collection, the local museum.[61] Two of the paintings were autobiographical. One painting called The Rumbling Kurn (2003) shows part of the Alnwick shoreline near Howick beach, whilst 27 Clayport Gardens (2004) depicts Vine in a pram as a child "outside her grandmother's old house".[62] The third work depicts Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour called Belle (2004) is a painting with collage, including a pink satin ribbon and a small cut out ink jet print of a bee, stuck on to the painting. The name Belle is painted in red across the circular board.[63][not in citation given][15]

Kate Moss paintings

In 2005, Vine lived in Los Angeles having been invited by Roberts & Tilton gallery[64] to put on a solo show there[16] The solo exhibition Petal (Part Two) ran from 3 June – 2 July 2005. From Los Angeles, Vine returned to London, living for a short while in Montague Street in a hotel; in order to avoid making a mess in her room, she painted in a van to prepare work for a show in New York.[65]

Vine moved to a flat in London's Bloomsbury district, opposite the British Museum, feeling at home with the historic character of the area. She continued with an erratic, bohemian life, using a local Camera Café as her office.[65] There followed solo shows in Israel, Los Angeles, London and New York. She was included in the second Prague Biennale.[66] Also in 2005, her solo show of new paintings Stellawood was staged at Tim Jefferies' gallery in Mayfair, London. At this time Vine collaborated with the artist James Jessop for the exhibition Fame at the This Way Up Gallery above the Dragon Bar in East London. The installation of paintings was based on the New York graffiti scene of the 1980s, including depictions of Fab Five Freddy, Keith Haring and Blondie.

Vine lived in Tavistock Square (behind the screens) at the time of the 2005 bus bombing there.

In July 2005, Vine made a painting of the No. 30 London bus which had been destroyed by a suicide bomber in Tavistock Square, outside her Bloomsbury flat; part of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Vine painted over the artwork almost as soon as she had made it, as she found the work "simply too disturbing".[67] Vine documented the bus painting before she re-painted over it, but refuses to show the photographs publicly during her lifetime. She described it as stunning and moving but "extremely harrowing to paint because there were bodies on the bus."[67] The canvas now shows the model Abi Titmuss wearing bleeding red shoes. Vine's decision to paint over the work was because she believed it too shocking to be exhibited but said freedom of expression was more important to her than money or success and that she reserves the right to paint anything that is shocking in life: "As an artist, if you can't take that freedom, you're a wanker."[67]

In August 2005, her painting Hi Paul can you come over I'm really frightened (2003) was listed in The Guardian at number three in a list of the ten worst paintings in Britain, having been chosen by David Andrews, a caricaturist who works in Leicester Square.[68] A new Vine painting of Diana, Princess of Wales called Murdered, pregnant and embalmed (2005), was bought by George Michael for £25,000, reported in The Sun newspaper which condemned it as "sick".[69]

Stella Vine. Holy water cannot help you now, a painting of Kate Moss.

Vine has made a number of large paintings of Kate Moss including Holy water cannot help you now (2005) and Kate unfinished (2005). Some of Vine's paintings of the supermodel were painted during the media scandal regarding Moss' alleged cocaine use. One painting of Moss exhibited at Hiscox Art Projects in London, had a slogan Must be the season of the witch across it in red paint.[70] Describing why she painted Moss, Vine compared the supermodel to Mona Lisa and said: "There's a bravery in Kate's eyes."[71] Waldemar Januszczak said the show was "a combination of empathy and cynicism that can be startling."[72]

Vine herself admitted to a four-month cocaine addiction.[73] She said, "I had been painting Kate Moss for a long time, both before the time of her crisis and during it. I felt very strongly for her—she's a hard-working mum and it seemed as if suddenly the world turned against her."[65] Vine said the media should not have accused Moss of being a bad mother, commenting that "men can go off and take as many drugs as they want, have as many children as they want, and their parenting rarely comes into question".[71] A Vine painting of Kate Moss was bought by fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.[1]

Rosy Wilde re-opens

The Rosy Wilde gallery re-opened in 2006 above the Ann Summers shop in Wardour Street, London.

In 2006, she re-opened her Rosy Wilde gallery, this time in Wardour Street[74] on the first floor above the first Ann Summers sex shop in Soho, London. After being collected by Saatchi, who Vine said had acted "entirely honourably",[6] she worked with a number of dealers who told her they had sold paintings when in fact they had saved the best works for themselves.[6] Commenting on her experiences in the commercial gallery world, Vine said: "The art world is really exactly the same as the sex industry: you have to be completely on guard, you will get shafted, fucked over left, right and centre."[67] Vine said:

"I have always been ambitious, no doubt about that. I always felt like I had to reach the dizzy heights of fame and success or whatever the heights are of a number of given professions I have dabbled in, to prove myself, "Stripper of the year", a Bafta or whatever, for me it was by creating something interesting and entertaining or moving, but not by compromising the thing I was creating, that thing had to reach those heights, I guess it's about being accepted and loved a bit or a lot."[9]

In June 2006, Vine held a solo show at the Bailiffgate Museum in Alnwick called Whatever Happened to Melissa Jane?. The exhibition title played on the title of the 1962 film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?: "Vine often uses witty pieces of text within her work that reflect the subject’s possible thoughts on, or reactions to, a situation."[75]

In August 2006, she was featured in the tabloids, when her painting of Celebrity Big Brother stars, Samuel "Ordinary Boy" Preston and Chantelle Houghton, "was used as the invitation to their wedding".[76]

September – October 2006, Vine was invited by the Museum of New Art in Detroit, to create a USA solo exhibition The Waltz.[77] Rather than a regular exhibition, Vine painted a large-scale mural across the museum space over a period of 5 days. The "live painting performance" was filmed and later exhibited alongside the stacked mural as a six-channel video installation showing Vine creating the mural, adding an extra dimension to her work.[78]

On 21 November 2006, Vine was filmed with Modern Art Oxford gallery director Andrew Nairne as part of Tim Marlow's documentary called Tim Marlow on... Modern Art Oxford on Five (TV channel).[79]

In April 2007, Vine was filmed in an episode of Horizon called Battle of the Brains for BBC Two in 2007.[80]

In May 2007, Vine took part in a public talk Gender & Culture[43] with Germaine Greer as part of the Women's International Arts Festival.[81] Vine was later interviewed by students from John Mason School, and Oxford Community School, Oxford in July 2007, organised by Arts Council England.[82]

Modern Art Oxford

Modern Art Oxford held Vine's first major solo show in 2007.

July – September 2007, the first major solo show of Vine's work was held at Modern Art Oxford.[83] The show included more than 100[43] paintings which had not previously had much exposure, and also work made specially for the show, including a new Diana, Princess of Wales series of paintings[83] such as Diana branches (2007) and Diana family picnic (2007) which "echoes the style" of family portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough.[75] Vine hoped these new works would show Diana's combined strength and vulnerability as well as her close relationship with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.[43] Vine oversaw the set up and installation of her exhibition at the museum herself but did not attend the opening press launch day or any of the private view evenings.[84] In an education guide published by the museum, there was a quote from Vine: "I’m not interested in being a shocking artist and not interested in being a celebrity myself."[75]

A book Stella Vine: Paintings accompany the exhibition, including an essay by Germaine Greer.[83] On 18 September 2007, Greer gave a talk about Vine's art with gallery director Andrew Nairne.[84] Vine was initially expected to be part of the talk with Greer, but did not attend due to personal reasons.[84] The Independent reported that Vine's "apparent reticence to step into the spotlight does not appear to have hampered her career commercially in any way" as all the paintings in the exhibition were sold.[84]

Germaine Greer wrote a catalogue essay and gave a talk about Vine's work at Modern Art Oxford in 2007.

Prior to the show opening, Vine said:

All those people who derided me did me a favour, because now I don't care what anyone says about me. I feel I am now able to be a really powerful painter, to take on the mantle of the US male expressionist.[85]

Vine's solo exhibition took place across the whole of the museum; in the 'Piper Gallery', the 'Middle Gallery' and the large 'Upper Gallery' which had many paintings of different sizes, hung from floor to ceiling: "a style of hanging paintings that is reminiscent of the salon hang, a 19th Century fashion for displaying paintings."[75]

Richard Dorment of The Daily Telegraph, who had previously described her work as "crappy", said of the show, "Well blow me down, she's good after all. Stella Vine is bang on the money: the paintings in her first solo show skewer celebrity culture with a vitality and truth that can't be faked".[86]

Lynn Barber, art critic for The Observer wrote that she thought Vine was the real deal.[6] The Guardian commented: "Vine's lurid and gutsy paintings are causing a storm in the art world. And rightly so."[52] Arifa Akbar of The Independent said Vine's examination of the culture of celebrity had been described as descending from the same tradition as pop art founder, Andy Warhol.[76] Vine said to The Independent on Sunday that she feels a strong connection to Warhol and having studied Warhol in depth on a course at Tate Modern she also considers herself as a similar type of character as him.[85]

Andy Warhol: Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times said Vine was his descendent.[3]

Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times likened Vine to Hans Christian Andersen in that she is "a fabulist who is both a grown-up artist and, emotionally, a child so damaged that she cannot grow up", "clever, literate, witty", and "Warhol's descendent" in her understanding of the idolisation of celebrity as a contemporary fairy tale.[3]

Andrew Nairne, director of Modern Art Oxford, said in the gallery's Summer brochure, that Vine will be discovered to be one of the most remarkable painters of our time.[87] Germaine Greer wrote in the show catalogue, "Though Stella Vine remains viscerally connected to the facts of her life, she is not her own hero. Her art is not a performance.".[88] Greer likened Vine's focus on the "iconography of the face, the two-eared badge of identity"[88] to the way Marlene Dumas and Jenny Saville have explored the imagery of the human body, and that when Vine "seizes on her celebrity subject and throttles her into paint, smearing her lipstick and melting her eye-makeup, she is as implacable as any rapist."[89]

Ana Finel-Honigman wrote in her introduction to an interview with Vine on the Saatchi Gallery web site: "the quality that critics use to undermine the credibility of Vine's art—that it is adolescent—is actually the source of its indisputable emotional impact." Finel-Honigman described Vine's art as bitterly honest in the same way Holden Caulfield's observations were about "a world filled with phonies", and Kurt Cobain's songs about "adult lies and injustice", and Sylvia Plath's "over-heated anger and bitterness at the world's betrayals" and that "Plath would surely appreciate Vine's portrait of Ted Hughes, with the epithet, Daddy, I have had to kill you emblazoned on the canvas."[1] It was reported that Vine subsidised the Modern Art Oxford solo show by giving the museum four of her paintings valued at £46,000[6] to cover the costs of shipping more than 100 works from all over the world to Oxford.[90] The musicians Gina Birch of rock band The Raincoats and KatieJane Garside of rock band Daisy Chainsaw both performed live at the party to commemorate the end of Vine's solo show.[91] Birch had previously performed at Vine's gallery Rosy Wilde in 2003[78] and at the opening of Vine's exhibition Prozac and Private Views in 2004.[15] In September 2007, Immodesty Blaize said she had been entranced by Vine's painting Diana crash (2007) at Modern Art Oxford finding it "by turns horrifying, bemusing and funny".[92]

Top Shop and Sport Relief

Stella Vine designed a fashion range for Topshop in 2007.

In July 2007, Vine collaborated with Topshop clothing chain, creating a limited edition fashion range inspired by her artworks. These included T-shirts,[93] vest tops, and T-shirt dresses,[94] the labels designed in pink glitter.[95] The Guardian commented that "the fact that the range of T-shirts she has recently designed for Top Shop – emblazoned with slogans like Breaks Up With Her Boyfriend[96] – are flying out, speaks volumes for her public support."[52]

In 2008, Vine created the painting Didier (2008),[97] depicting sports star Didier Drogba, for the charity Sport Relief. Vine also allowed them to create a limited edition print of Didier (2008) to help raise further funds for the charity.[98] In April 2008, a drawing of author J. K. Rowling by Vine was auctioned for The Merlin Project charity[99] who raise funds to build a Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre.[100]

Didier Drogba: Vine painted him in 2008 for the Sport Relief charity.

Vine told The Guardian that she would spend Christmas Day 2008 with a run around the Serpentine, or a walk in Hyde Park or across London town with her son's bullmastiff dog and a small haversack of whisky and coffee.[101]

In the February 2009 issue of Gay Times, Vine discussed the 'tabloid frenzy' and media scrutiny that followed Saatchi collecting her work in 2004: "In the beginning it was a real battle to assert any kind of intelligence at all.". She spoke of pouring her emotions out in interviews and coming across as "a bit wild" and explained her mother had died at that time: "you are in a bit of a crazy place after something like that.".[102] She said she now feels like "someone who's grown up" and that she sees life in a "much more mature kind of way". Vine said she was happy the media gave her a platform when no-one else did, and in spite of getting annoyed when factually incorrect things were said about her or when her comments were taken out of context, she did not really mind, as out of that she had the "opportunity for people to see my work and make their own decisions."[102]

Vine described modern celebrity culture as nothing new, that it's something humans had always done and that she admired people who were under intense pressure like Britney Spears who she felt was "very, very brave".[102] Vine discussed her paintings of other musicians such as Morrissey (and his band The Smiths), who she admires for his "physicality, his voice and his maverick stance and independence". Vine painted Amy Winehouse in Amy brick wall because of Amy's "bizarre mixture" of fragility and strength, and "the whole thing of putting her man on a pedestal, almost like a Country & Western singer from the 60s."[102] Vine described Kurt Cobain as a good, brave person and that her paintings of Courtney Love such as Courtney guilty were made during Love's trial when Vine felt Love was under attack, which she identifies with: "She's one of those people who are prepared to put the truth out, warts and all, even though you will be attacked for it.[102]


On 19 February 2009 at Oxford Union, Vine spoke in proposition of the motion, This House Believes That Promiscuity Is A Virtue Not A Vice, along with Dr. Shere Hite, Carol Queen and Joani Blank; in opposition were the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (Andrew Burnham), Wendy Shalit and Inga Muscio.[4]

In November 2008, it was announced that Vine had begun painting a series of new work for a large solo show at The Eden Project, Cornwall, England to be held June – September 2010.[87]

Solo Shows

  • 2004 Prozac and Private Views, London, UK
  • 2004 Petal, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 2005 Stellawood, London, UK
  • 2005 Petal (Part Two), Los Angeles, USA
  • 2006 Whatever happened to Melissa Jane?, Alnwick, UK
  • 2006 The Waltz, Detroit, USA
  • 2007 Stella Vine: Paintings, Oxford, UK


Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d Honigman, Ana Finel. "Stella Vine in conversation with Ana Finel Honigman", Saatchi Gallery 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Billen, Andrew. "I Made More Money As A Stripper...", 15 June 2004. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  3. ^ a b c Wullschlager, Jackie. "Where art history meets Hello!", Financial Times 21 July 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  4. ^ a b "This House Believes That Promiscuity Is A Virtue Not A Vice", Oxford Union. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  5. ^ Vine, Stella. "Girlcrush", Stella Vine blog, 8 March 2006. Retrieved 21 April 2006.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Barber, Lynne. "Vine Times", 8 July 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Stella Vine biog", Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  8. ^ Jackson, Nicole and Edemariam, Aida. "Homespun Genius", 10 December 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
  9. ^ a b Vine, Stella. "Harry Pye", Stella Vine blog, 11 March 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2006.
  10. ^ The Street, BBC Norfolk. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Januszczak, Waldemar. "The Paint Stripper", The Sunday Times, 10 June 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  12. ^ Stella Vine 'Saver or Spender', The Independent, 12 June 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  13. ^ a b c "Debt, Diana and homesickness" The Journal, 8 June 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  14. ^ a b c "The Money Issue: answer the questions! Stella Vine – Princess Diana, Prozac and private views", The Independent on Sunday, 7 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  15. ^ a b c d e Vine, Stella. Prozac and Private Views, limited edition (200) signed catalogue, Transition, 2004. Some of the content is available online on
  16. ^ a b c Saner, Emine. "My £600-a-week coke habit just to paint; Controversial artist Stella Vine speaks about the project inspired by Kate Moss that drove her to addiction – and how only the love for her teenage son stopped her from attempting suicide.", Evening Standard (London), 1 December 2005. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  17. ^ Vine, Stella. "My life in glorious technicolour" The Guardian, 27 February 2007. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  18. ^ In 2004, Vine said in The Independent that she started the college evening classes in 2000. [1] In 2004, this date was cited in The Times,[2], in 2005 in The Independent (p. 14, 30 April 2005) and Evening Standard (p. 22, 1 December 2005), and in 2007 in the Observer in 2007 [3]. In 2006, the starting date was stated as 1999 in The Journal (Newcastle) (p. 40, 27 June 2006, and p. 9, 4 September 2006), and then in 2007 by Modern Art Oxford [4] the Saatchi Gallery [5] and the National Portrait Gallery.[6] As of 2008 Vine's web site gives summer school and evening classes 1999–2000.[7]
  19. ^ "The Hampstead School of Art", Retrieved 18 December 2008
  20. ^ "The transformation of Stella Vine's art" Accessed 24 April 2006
  21. ^ a b Thomson, Charles (August 2004), "A Stuckist on Stuckism: Stella Vine", from: Ed. Frank Milner (2004), The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p. 23, National Museums Liverpool, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. Essay text available on line at
  22. ^ a b "Stella Vine the Stuckist in photos", Stuckism. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  23. ^ "New sculpture in London's Trafalgar Square", Getty Images, 4 June 2001. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
  24. ^ Stuckism news: Westminster Stuckists come unstuck",, 10 July 2001. Retrieved from Internet Archive, 9 January 2009.
  25. ^ "What's on", National Portrait Gallery, August 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  26. ^ "Trouble and strife", Evening Standard, p. 12, 20 August 2001.
  27. ^ a b Johnson, Angella. The Mail on Sunday (London), 7 March 2004, p. 38. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h Deveney, Catherine. "Stripped bare", Scotland on Sunday, 14 March 2004. Retrieved on 17 December 2008.
  29. ^ a b "Trouble and strife", Evening Standard (London), p. 12, 20 August 2001.
  30. ^ Akbar, Arifa. "Autism charity attracts titans of the art world", The Independent, 22 October 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  31. ^ a b Alleyne, Richard. "First blood to Saatchi as a star is born", 'The Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2004. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  32. ^ Johnston, Ian. "Former husband of artist Vine denies paying her to marry him", Scotland on Sunday, 21 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  33. ^ a b c Malvern, Jack. "Saatchi dragged into artists' dispute", The Times (print edition), 5 April 2004.
  34. ^ Stummer, Robin. "Charles Saatchi 'abuses his hold on British art market'", The Independent on Sunday, 28 March 2004. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  35. ^ Thomson, Charles (August 2004), "A Stuckist on Stuckism: Charles Saatchi and the OFT attack", from: Ed. Frank Milner (2004), The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p. 23, National Museums Liverpool, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. Available online at
  36. ^ Pia, Simon. "Now the Stuckists are on the move", The Scotsman, p. 22, 22 September 2004.
  37. ^ a b Barnes, Anthony. "Portrait of an ex-husband's revenge: The vicious feud between artists Charles Thomson and his former wife, Stella Vine, has spilled over on to canvas.", The Independent, 3 September 2006. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  38. ^ a b Deedes, Henry. "Vine's Stuckist rival sticks one on her at exhibition", 13 February 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  39. ^ The Jackdaw, September/October. Online at
  40. ^ "Stuckists launch their annual protest against the Turner Prize at Tate Britain", Culture24, 29 September 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  41. ^ "Rosy Wilde", Rosy Wilde. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  42. ^ Saner, Emine. "Why I had to paint Rachel; Her portrait of a heroin addict may be controversial – the police want it withdrawn from the Saatchi Gallery – but for Stella Vine, such work is clearly an expression of her own troubled life.", The Evening Standard (London), 17 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  43. ^ a b c d e Stella Vine's Latest Exhibition Modern Art Oxford, 14 July 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  44. ^ Barnes, Anthony. "Money for old rope (expect a big run on toilet paper art)", The Independent on Sunday, 21 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  45. ^ Kennedy, Maev. "Smart thinking takes on Saatchi hype", The Guardian, 23 March 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  46. ^ Lomax, Cathy. Cathy Lomax blog, 19 February 2004. Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  47. ^ Yelland, David. "Saatchi Brothers", The Times, p. 36, 5 March 2004.
  48. ^ a b c d Leitch, Luke. "Saatchi draws blood with savage attack on his critics; Gallery Owner Breaks His Silence 'I am being cast as the pantomime villain', 26 April 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  49. ^ Morris, S and Cowan, R. "Gallery urged not to show portrait of dead addict", The Guardian, 16 March 2004. Retrieved on 28 September 2007.
  50. ^ Saunders, Emma. "Review: Saatchi's New Blood", 22 March 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  51. ^ "Stella Vine", Front Row, BBC, 16 March 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  52. ^ a b c Moody, Paul. "Everyone's talking about Stella Vine", The Guardian, 12 July 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  53. ^ Owen, Paul. "From the art publications", The Guardian, 14 July 2004. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  54. ^ Michon, Alex (2004). Mise en Scene Magdelanas, footnote 1. Included in Vine, Stella (2004). Prozac and Private Views, limited edition (200) signed catalogue, Transition.
  55. ^ Searle, Adrian. "Good Bad or Bad Bad", The Guardian, 25 February 2004. Retrieved 29 Januarary 2009.
  56. ^ "Prozac and Private Views; Large Works", Transition Gallery Online, 10 June 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  57. ^ "Prozac and Private Views; Medium Works", Transition Gallery Online, 10 June 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  58. ^ a b "Prozac and Private Views" Transition Gallery Online, 10 June 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  59. ^ "Stella Vine What to make of Charles Saatchi's latest find?" BBC Online, 7 June 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  60. ^ a b Lost Kitten, Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  61. ^ Bailiffgate Museum free exhibition brochure: Stella Vine, 2006. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  62. ^ "Alnwick Sensation", BBC Inside Out, 27 September 2004. Retrieved on 23 December 2007.
  63. ^ Vine, Stella. Stella Vine: Paintings, Modern Art Oxford, 2007. ISBN 978-1901352344 [8]
  64. ^ Stella Vine Petal (Part Two), 3 June 2005. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  65. ^ a b c Williams-Akoto. "My Home: Stella Vine, artist", The Independent, 30 November 2005. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  66. ^ "PragueBiennaleTwo: Expanded painting", Prague Biennale web site. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  67. ^ a b c d Smith, David (2006)"Art? It's like the sex trade" The Observer, 23 April 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2006.
  68. ^ "G2: In pictures: Ten of the worst: The National Gallery, along with the Today programme, is searching for the best painting hanging in Britain. But not all artworks are so admired. We asked 10 experts to select the pictures they loathe", The Guardian, p. 10, 19 August 2005.
  69. ^ Iggulden, Caroline. "George's sick Di portrait", The Sun, 30 August 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  70. ^ Hirakawa, Sayaka. "Henry Hudson and Stella Vine", Shift, November 2005. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  71. ^ a b Mingay, Jane. Painting of Moss using drugs on display, Associated Press, London. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  72. ^ Januszczak, Waldemar. "The Picture of Health?", The Sunday Times, 27 November 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2006
  73. ^ Keating, Matt. "My mentor", The Guardian, 10 December 2005. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  74. ^ Rosy Wilde in Wardour Street, 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  75. ^ a b c d Millward, Miranda. Stella Vine Education Notes, Modern Art Oxford, 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  76. ^ a b Akbar, Arifa. "The Warhol tradition: The Many Faces of Stella Vine", "The Independent", 17 July 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
  77. ^ "15 September – October 28 Stella Vine", Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  78. ^ a b "Stella Vine's The Waltz at Museum of New Art", September 2006. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  79. ^ Marlow, Tim. "Tim Marlow on... Modern Art Oxford" Tuesday 21 November, 7.15 pm aired on Five (TV channel)
  80. ^ Talyor, Dick "Grey power: Battle of the brains", 17 April 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  81. ^ "Visual Arts: Women's Arts International Festival: Kendal, Cumbria, England" 6 May 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  82. ^ "News from Arts Council England, South East; Focusing On Young Adults; A stellar exhibition", Arts Council England, September 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2008
  83. ^ a b c "Stella Vine: Paintings", Modern Art Oxford. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  84. ^ a b c d Deedes, Henry. Artist Stella misses brush with her adoring public, The Independent, 18 September 2007. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  85. ^ a b Eyre, Hermione. "Completing my new show was the only thing that saved me from suicide", 15 July 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  86. ^ Dorment, Richard. "Stella Vine: Well blow me down, she's good after all", The Daily Telegraph, 28 August 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  87. ^ a b "Stella Vine: Arts Hub UK" Arts Hub UK, 19 November 2008.
  88. ^ a b Greer, Germaine (2007). "Mirror, Mirror" essay, p. 9, in Vine, Stella (2007). Stella Vine: Paintings, Modern Art Oxford. ISBN 978-1901352344 [9]
  89. ^ Greer, Germaine (2007). "Mirror, Mirror" essay, p. 13, in Vine, Stella (2007). Stella Vine: Paintings, Modern Art Oxford. ISBN 978-1901352344 [10]
  90. ^ "Stella Gets Her Groove at Oxford (Part I)", Museum Views, July 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  91. ^ "An evening of Britpunk and Britart", Oxford Contemporary Music, 21 September 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  92. ^ Barnett, Laura. "Portrait of the artist: Immodesty Blaize, burlesque dancer", The Guardian, 4 September 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  93. ^ Stella Vine tee at Topshop, Catwalk Queen, 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  94. ^ One of Stella Vine's T-shirt dresses for TopShop,, 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  95. ^ "Stella Vine for Top Shop", Topshop, 27 July 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^ Real Art Co's Sport Relief page
  99. ^ "Invest in J. K. Rowling at sale", The Western Morning News (Plymouth), 5 April 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2008
  100. ^ Merlin Project, 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  101. ^ "My Christmas", The Guardian, 8 December 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2008.
  102. ^ a b c d e Mercer, Joseph. "GT Art: Stella Vine", Gay Times, pages. 46, 47, 48. February 2009 issue. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  103. ^ Goss Michael Foundation, Stella Vine painting 4P (2005) featured in their Contact section, Goss Michael Foundation, 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  104. ^ Gleadell, Colin. "Art sales: galleries chase a new face in the collector crowd", 7 February 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  105. ^ a b c Stella Vine, Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  106. ^ "Soul diva Alicia helps raise half a million", 11 July 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  107. ^ "Temposhark" Retrieved 13 December 2008.

External links

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