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Something You Should See… Nicholas Alvis Vega: Nymphae Nymphalidae at Rove Gallery

Is there a more prescient subject matter at the moment than women’s rights and gender relations? Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day and it does not require a list of recent news stories to illustrate the need for such a global coming together. Though we can be buoyed by heart-soaring moment’s of heroism (Malala, for example, the 15-year-old Afghani girl prepared to stand up to the Taliban to get an education) there are endless grim examples of the subjugation of women. Nicholas Alvis Vega is an artist who has long been concerned with the representation and treatment of women;  in Nymphae Nymphalidae he delivers a timely exhibition examining the somewhat simplistic and reductive attitudes that have categorised the portrayal of women in art over the centuries, and indeed. still inform vast swathes of male opinion to this day.

Here, Alvis Vega has created a series of oil paintings that copy iconic works of art right through to modern advertising, before defacing them. In doing this, he seeks to question the idea of the ‘male gaze’ theory  whether male attitudes have departed very far from seeing women merely as madonnas or whores, according to Laura Mulvey. If we think of Hilary Mantel’s recent (oft-misquoted) analysis of the role of Royal Consort and elsewhere, the feverish debate about the impact of pornography, the timing of Vega’s questioning seems auspicious.
Alvis Vega has lived all over the world and this has given him a unique experience of the treatment of women and first hand insights into the attitudes that lead to such treatment. This exhibition is a culmination of those experiences and though it seeks to inspire serious debate, also has room for a bit of fun.  The private view on March 8th promises whiskey sours, the creation of new art, a performance-based on the exhibition and some top women DJs – a worthwhile way to mark International Women’s Day. (Words: Ed Spencer) 

Nymphae Nymphalidae runs until April 6th.  For more info, visit:


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