Selected works by Olivia Plender

Olivia Plender
The Masterpiece Part 4 - A Weekend In The Country


24 drawings on paper

21 x 29.7cm

Olivia Plender uses the format of the comic book as an alternative mode of distribution for art, capitalising on its inexpensive accessibility as a means to challenge cultural ideals. The Masterpiece series is an expansive critique of originality; the drawings are conceived as a by-product of artistic process and not actual artworks in themselves. Appropriating her title from Emile Zola’s novel about Cezanne, Plender’s The Masterpiece 4 explores the concept of Romanticism and authors a complex fiction examining the concept of artist-as-genius. Her protagonist is an archetypical painter – tortured by his creativity, exploited by a cruel world – who is invited from 1960s London to a weekend in the country. The plot unfolds as a Byronic epic cum Hammer House horror, delving her champion into a world of psychedelia and occult as a metaphoric parody of artistic strife. Drawing reference from 19th century technical manuals and b-movie film stills, Plender’s graphic narratives are designed with the stylised glamour of pulp fiction covers. Her vignette images intertwine as surreal pastiche, adding a psychological complexity to her illustrated story.

Other Resources
Olivia Plender is an artist and writer and currently co-editor of ‘Untitled’ magazine. Her interest in magazine, comic strip and pulp fiction book cover formats is evident in her drawings exploring fictional narratives of bohemian lifestyles.
There aren't many cultural forms that artist Olivia Plender hasn't unearthed for her current project; a gorgeously drawn, intensely detailed, and cross-referential 'comic-book' called The Masterpiece. The list of sources Plender draws from includes comic culture, 1950's pulp novellas, movie adverts, film stills, screenplay dialogue, literary quotes, art-legends, cultural anecdotes, historical personalities, as well as fictional mythologies, all of which are integrated together to create a new form of fiction. - Olivia Plender, The Masterpiece
Recent works include a comic book about an imaginary London avant-garde of the past and a series of fictional advertising posters mimicking the appearance of early 20th-century advertisements. Beck's Futures 2006
Olivia Plender: The Masterpiece, Evil Genius, Issue 3 (2004)
Set in London at the end of the 1950’s, The Masterpiece is a comic about an unrecognised artistic genius trying to negotiate his way to success in the stifling atmosphere of an imaginary bohemia. The form the work takes of a mass-produced comic is in deliberate contrast to the unique one off masterpiece that the central character is obsessed with making.
Plender's work operates, at least explicitly, on a surface level, within the same framework as that of the polysemic novel, where an interrelation of self-contained parts combines to the work's final understanding. This polysemic reading can be interpreted as a semiotics of content, in which each distinct part of the work contains its own meaning, intrinsic to and apart from the overall meaning.
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