Lisa Wright


Interweaving motifs and ideas from historical paintings with contemporary concerns, Lisa Wright’s paintings move between and through different times.

Often isolated, the figures within Wright’s paintings and drawings hover on the brink of adulthood. Their childish faces, flushed cheeks and rounded bellies are at odds with the fragments of formal, adult, decorative clothing – ribbons, ruffs and petticoats – that adorn their predominantly unclothed bodies. The complex, in-between era of puberty is explored through the emotional and physical vulnerability of the figures, and adolescent elegance, confidence, awkwardness and defiance are exposed. 

Puberty heightens everything. Emotions are intensified, the insignificant is magnified and the importance of the presentation of the self, of body image, predominates. One can identify details within Wright’s paintings that are curiously heightened and often sensual: the bright red rim of an ear; a single translucent bow fixed to a naked chest; the uncomfortable shyness of the placing of a young girl’s clasped hands.

Many of the figures wear simple black or white masks, reminiscent of Venetian carnival masks. These were held in place by the mouth, preventing eating, kissing and speaking, rendering the wearer somewhat passive and mute. Formally these devices ‘interrupt’ the figures and add to the paintings’ startling and unsettling focal points, emphasising the search for identity and construction of the self that is so critical during puberty. Likewise, the title of the exhibition, ‘The Unversed’, alludes to the figures lacking the language, skills and experience to express themselves or to describe their experiences adequately. Instead, emotions and ideas are untold: lives remaining in a state of anticipation and a state of potential. 
Wright’s paintings are developed from a variety of sources. Drawings are made from life and (if necessary) from reproductions of historical paintings such as those by the eighteenth-century painters Pietro Longhi and Jean-Antoine Watteau and, most importantly from repeated drawing expeditions to study works in place at historical collections held by institutions like the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection.

Following these initial studies, ideas are then worked through in rigorous and intuitive drawing sessions, using different materials on different scales, both on paper and canvas. Her remarkable drawing skills and deft handling of paint are apparent in the use of thick, rich, buttery strokes, descriptive drips of paint, looser brushwork and extremely delicate, fine detailing. The effect is emphasised by Wright’s careful balancing of both figurative and abstracted elements, while her remarkably vivid and saturated palette locates the subjects in the present moment.

The works appear highly staged: a smudge of paint acts as an indeterminate background, the depth of pictorial space is deliberately made mysterious, and a softly glowing luminosity lights the figures in particular ways, as if they were actors or dancers on a minimal stage. Yet each figure is afforded privacy: a space within the canvas which belongs to them alone, perhaps making the viewer feel as if they are intruding into a very private world, despite the ‘staging’.

This important new body of work shows an artist at the height of her creative powers, pulling at the threads of a creative tapestry which resonates with both the ancient and the profoundly contemporary. 

After studying at The Royal Academy Schools, London, 1990-1993, Wright relocated to Cornwall, where she currently lives and works. Wright has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, such as at Tate St Ives in the significant ‘Art Now Cornwall’ exhibition. Her work is held in many corporate and private collections and she was artist in residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company throughout the two year period of their ‘ Histories’ cycle, culminating in an exhibition at the Roundhouse, London. Wright’s work has been selected for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition for the last twenty two years. Awards include the National Open Art Prize, the Hunting Art Prize and, most notably, the Threadneedle Prize in 2013. 




Elected Royal West of England Academician (RWA)


Elected member of Newlyn Society of Artists

Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University


Studied at Royal Academy Schools, London (Post Graduate – Painting)


Maidstone College of Art (First Class BA Hons)

Solo Exhibitions


‘The Unversed’ Curated by Coates and Scarry at Gallery 8 London


New Drawings’ Millennium Gallery


‘Walking Through Beautiful’ Millennium Gallery


‘Into the Light’, Beardsmore Gallery, London


‘The Histories’ Paintings produced during two year residency with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Roundhouse and Beardsmore Gallery, London & The Royal Academy Café Gallery, London.


‘Twilight Paintings’, Beardsmore Gallery, London


‘Night Paintings’, Lemon Street Gallery, Cornwall


‘Beach Paintings’, Beardsmore Gallery, London


‘Pool Paintings’, Beardsmore Gallery, London Lemon Street Gallery, Cornwall


Beardsmore Gallery, London


Beardsmore Gallery, London


Beardsmore Gallery, London


Thornton/Bevan Arts, London


Sadlers Wells Gallery, London Raw Gallery, London


The Royal Overseas League, London


‘Reflection of Two’, Greenwich Theatre Art Gallery, London

Selected Group Exhibitions


CONTEXT Art Miami, Coates & Scarry, Miami

THE FUTURE CAN WAIT, curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley , London

ART CENTRAL Coates & Scarry, Hong Kong

‘ANTHOLOGY’ Charlie Smith Gallery, London

‘Spring Masters’ The Armoury, John Martin Gallery, New York

‘VESTIGE’ Coates & Scarry, London

Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, London

ART 15 -Coates & Scarry, London

RWA Autumn Exhibition, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

‘Impressions’ Herbert Read Gallery, UCA Canterbury


ARBORETUM The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London

‘Unsettled’ Enys House, Cornwall

ART 14 London, Millennium Gallery

RWA Autumn Exhibition, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

‘WASH’ Resort, Margate – curated by Francesca Flowers and Charles Williams


The Threadneedle Prize, London (joint Winner)

Limbo, The Coffin Store, Cornwall

Millennium Mixed Winter, Millennium Gallery

The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol. Autumn Exhibition (Evolver Prize)


The Royal West of England Academy, Autumn Exhibition

Millennium Mixed Winter

IMS – Contemporary Cornish Paintings’-

Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall and Christies, London


PRINT! The Exchange, Cornwall

Millennium Mixed Winter

1991 – 2010

(inclusive) Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London


30th Anniversary exhbition, Beaux Art , Bath

Reality Check, Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall

The Lynn Painter- Stainers Prize, London


The National Open Art Competition, Pallant House, (1st Prizewinner)

The Threadneedle Art prize, London

The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, London (Prizewinner)

Cornish Perspective, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

10th Anniversay exhibition, Lemon Street Gallery


The National Open Art Competition, Chichester / London (2nd Prize winner)

Crossing Over, Beaux Art, Bath

The Threadneedle Art Prize, London


Art Now Cornwall, Tate Gallery St. Ives


The Sovereign European Art prize, London

‘To the Edge’, Beardsmore Gallery, London

NSA Exhibition, Goldfish, Cornwall


‘Critic’s Choice’, (Norbert Lynton), NSA, Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall

25th Anniversary Hunting Art Prizes, London (Prize winner)


Invited artist, Hunting Art Prizes, London


Hunting Art Prizes, Royal College of Art, London (First prize winner)

‘Critic’s Choice’, (Joan Bakewell), Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall


‘The Space Between’ two person exhibition (with Mark Surridge) Merriscourt Gallery

Hunting Art Prize, Royal College of Art, London ‘Ten’, Beardsmore Gallery, London

‘From the Heart’, Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall


Lemon Street Gallery (two-person exhibition with Mary Mabutt), Cornwall


Hunting Art Prizes, Royal College of Art, London (prizewinner)

Cheltenham Open Drawing Exhibition, Cheltenham, Humberside, Switzerland

Merriscourt Gallery, (four-person exhibition), Oxfordshire

Awards and Prizes


Threadneedle Prize- joint Winner

Evolver Prize – The Royal West of England Academy


The National Open Art Competition-First prize

The Lynn Painter- Stainers Prize – Runner-up prize


The National Open Art Competition- Second prize


25th Anniversary Hunting Art Prizes- Most Popular Painting Prize

Shortlisted for the Sovereign European Art Prize


Hunting Art Prizes- First prize

Arts Council of England Award


The Villiers David Award (Fine Art-shortlisted)

Hunting Art Prizes-Regional Award


Young Artist Award- NEAC


The Winsor & Newton Young Artist Award


The George Isted Prize (RA schools)

WH Patterson Fine Arts Award

The Royal Overseas League Travel Scholarship


The Royal Academy Premiums Painting Prize



The Jerwood Foundation





The Royal Shakespeare Company