RECEPTION

 

‘If art is mostly a matter of individual self-definition, then the painter Lizzie Rowe is a rare and exemplary artist. Over the last couple of decades she has painted her way through a transgender transformation that leaves most of her contemporaries’ media-savvy play-acting look tentative and indulgent. Here Rowe’s tiny multiple drawings, collectively titled the Book of Dresses, are executed with such unashamed delicacy of the touch the effect borders on the devotional. At the same time, a series of paintings of mirrors draped with feminine paraphernalia reflects a more dark and uncertain sense of self-identity. Above all, Rowe impresses by sticking to her own distinctive creative direction.’


Robert Clark, The Guardian, 10th January 2008


‘There isn't a painter anywhere around quite like Lizzie Rowe. Combining the lush paintwork and moody atmospheric tonalities of Rembrandt with the sinuous graphic decadence of Beardsley, Rowe has created a body of work of rare personal resonance. Rowe doesn't make easy political references to sexual and gender role playing; this is an artist who has painted first his, now her way out of social stereotypes and achieved, through immense creative and personal struggle, the liberation of being a self created individual. So here Rowe's long-time fascination with dresses and lace, her domestic reveries of ritualised laundering and ironing, are transformed with an aura of otherworldly melancholy and yearning.’

Robert Clark The Guardian , June 17, 2006


‘One of the most skilled, sensitive and intriguing painters in the country… With immaculately balanced compositions worthy of Edward Hopper and a painterly sensuality reminiscent of the 19th-century romanticism of Gustav Courbet, this could be some of the most convincing realist self-portraiture around, precisely because the artist situates the facts of her life within a constantly uncertain aura of autobiographical vulnerability.’


Robert Clark, The Guardian, 9th June 2004


‘A self portrait by a controversial sex change artist should never be shown in ‘traditional’ Hartlepool, a politician has stormed. The town would be shocked to see the masterpiece produced by Lizzie Rowe… Tory parliamentary candidate Graham Robb… has joined Tory MPs… in condemning the Cleveland painting. ‘I am alarmed. This is outrageous extravagance beyond belief,’ he said. ‘It should never be exhibited in Hartlepool, it is not the kind of thing we want in Hartlepool where we are very traditional in our values.’ Mr Robb’s Labour counterpart, Peter Mandelson, has jumped to defend art in the issue and branded criticism as ‘pathetic clamour.’ ‘It’s totally hypocritical, art should be judged on its merits, not on the political prejudices of local Tories,’ he said.’


Carol Malia, Hartlepool Mail, 13th July 1991


‘There are two rooms filled with extraordinary self portraits… exceptionally powerful and curiously refined explorations of the psyche. Here is an outstanding talent.’


Marina Vaizey, Sunday Times, 20th May 1990


‘One of the most intriguing installations is by a transsexual Newcastle artist named Liz Rowe. She presents a series of meticulously detailed and self-consciously feminine portraits and domestic genre paintings and drawings full of scrambled gender messages.’


Eleanor Heartney, Art in America, October 1990


‘Rowe uses painting openly to display his own heterosexual transvestism. Rather than doubting or disguising his fascinations, he bravely extends and elaborates them in his work, as Genet does… The oil paint thickened with was is moulded to pick out telling details, a ribbon bow… a roll-up fag… reminiscent of the discarded beads and comb beneath the entwined figures in Courbet’s Sleepers. The broderie anglaise of the dress seems as illuminated from within as the clothes of Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride. It is this level of mastery, together with the vulnerability of the subjects that gives the work its strength.’


Robert Clark, The Guardian, 2nd May 1988


‘Rowe obviously delights in pitting himself against the artists he admires – Velasquez, Goya and Manet. But it would be a mistake to think that he only involves himself with the Twentieth Century through direct reference to contemporary household objects. These pictures are rooted in the Twentieth Century, and in many ways the image-ground structure on Hinterland owes as much to John Walker’s Alba as it does to Goya.’


John Devane, Arts Review, 6th May 1988


‘There are obvious differences between being part of a fashion (like skins or punks) and being a freelancer. Society is always satisfied (even if it does not approve) with the explanation – it’s a fashion – what really offends is apparent uniqueness… there is just the hint that with Rowe we have a traveller in what is still perceived, understood and mostly accepted (even by Guardian reading men) as a woman’s world. It is this perspective, together with Rowe’s craftsman-like renderings, that I find so intriguing.’


Peter Dormer, Art Monthly, October 1987