Most of the images we see of Brutalist architecture nowadays – whether in the many Twitter and Instagram feeds that have grown up over the last few years, or in the huge number of coffee-table books on the subject – are of buildings rendered into a kind of sculptural abstraction of de-contextualised black and white forms. These images are, of course, a world away from realities that actually play out in these buildings.What attracted me to Peter Wylie's painting of Robin Hood Gardens was how it differed from these fashionable depictions of Brutalism. The building's geometric facade fills the composition yet also evades the perpendicular geometry of the picture frame. Rather than serving to anonymise, here the building's grid reveals the complexity of what lies within. Each aperture has its own individuality, in the colour of the curtains, how they're drawn, or in the different clothes shown hanging from the line, which corresponds to the person or people whose flat lies behind.Wylie shows the building as alive with use and inhabitation, as a frame for the lives that play out inside it, rather than as a disembodied sculptural object to be marvelled at on a screen. Brutalism is without doubt the most contested of architectural styles. Wylie side-steps the polarisation in views that so often occurs when considering Brutalist buildings by revealing this one in all it's compelling complexity.
Owen Hopkins, architectural writer, historian and curator.