Acquired from the above by David Teiger in 2005
This barricade that Anderson erects between viewer and subject is entirely characteristic of a body of work that directly confronts the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean. As Eddie Chambers observes, Anderson’s Jamaica is “very different to that enjoyed by holidaymakers from the US or Europe” (Ibid., p. 76). This is partially due to the sense of dislocation that the artist felt when he visited Trinidad in 2002: despite his having never been there before, people assumed he was a local. This dichotomy of belonging and displacement is reflected in many of his paintings from this period, as it provided a neat parallel to the status of black people in the Caribbean during the colonial era. However most strikingly, and most divorced from the white Western tourist’s experience, is the literal construction of barriers throughout the Caribbean. Ornate grilles that cover every door and first floor window are ostensibly decorative, but there can be no ambiguity regarding their true purpose, and by association, no preventing a pervasive sense of the potential for violence and crime.
Through the grilles that Anderson paints, interiors become caged entities, confined and threatened. The viewer looks through the bars of this cage as he would in a zoo, the objects pedestalised and rendered redundant, the scene presented as an exhibit. In doing so he becomes complicit in the othering process that is inherent in colonial discourse, the observer of an involuntary subject. Forcing the viewer to confront the legacy of a dominant white narrative in art criticism and appreciation, Anderson creates a psychological barrier in addition to the literal barrier of the grille, which in turn echoes the work of his former teacher, Peter Doig, whose Concrete Cabins see Le Corbusier’s utopian Unité d’Habitation slip in and out of view behind a screen of tree trunks. The effect of this is disorienting and unsettling – the viewer cannot fully view the subject of the picture.
Veering between figuration and abstraction, Marlene’s epitomises the multifaceted nature of the artist’s practice. From the named but unseen proprietor to the locus of relaxation to which the viewer is denied entry, the painting is riddled with moments of disquiet that give the viewer pause. However, as Jennifer Higgie noted in her essay for Anderson’s seminal exhibition at Ikon Gallery in 2013, “despite the allusions in the paintings to the complex histories of leisure, politics and control… meaning is open-ended and allusive rather than emphatic” (Jennifer Higgie, ‘Another word for feeling’, in: Exh. Cat., Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, op. cit., p. 11). Avoiding didacticism whilst retaining the conceptual tenets that underpin all of the artist’s best work, Marlene’s epitomises the thoughtful practice that earned the artist a Turner prize nomination in 2017 and has brought him to international acclaim.
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