- Hurvin Anderson
- Untitled (Beach Scene)
- titled and dated 2003 (NOV) on the stretcher
- oil on canvas
- 160 by 259 cm. 63 by 102 in.
Private Collection, London
Sotheby's, London, 16 October 2009, Lot 112 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, London (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, London, 26 June 2013, Lot 50 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
London, Saatchi Gallery, Newspeak: British Art Now, May - October 2010, pp. 11-12, no. 11, illustrated
As highly important threads that run through Anderson’s work, these themes are explored via the visual politics of leisure spaces. Ranging from barber shops to bars and beaches, the environments painted in the early works boldly recall the art historical lineage of Impressionism – the great bastion of idyllic leisure pursuits in paint – and yet conflate it with a profoundly post-colonial dialogue. The Parisian River Seine is here reimagined as the exotic island coastline pictured in Untitled (Beach Scene). Echoing masterpieces such as Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières or Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe - which speaks to a very specific late-nineteenth-century bourgeois sense of leisure, Anderson masterfully subverts this legacy for his own highly-charged purposes. Trinidad’s long colonial history under British rule, speaks directly to Anderson's split heritage as a man born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents. In reworking the language of Impressionist masters, Anderson calls into question the totalising conception of European leisure during a time when Trinidad was still heavily dominated by colonial rule. This dark, unsettling undercurrent lies in the shadowy layers of semi-realised figures. As past and present, even perhaps the future, merges into one, Anderson masterfully evokes the distressing histories of the island as forms and time periods migrate across the canvas.
“Whilst I was in Trinidad, there was this moment where you felt part of it, not part of it. I was this interloper, coming through the veldt, a bit of a spy, but I was found out” (Hurvin Anderson, cited in: Alice Spawls, ‘It’s only in painting that you can do everything you want’, Apollo, 17 September 2016, online). There is a perennial sense distance or detachment in Anderson’s work that shines through in Untitled (Beach Scene). As the foreground falls away in almost melancholic cascade of drips, Anderson places the scene tantalising out of the viewer’s grasp. We are not there and never will be. This compositional void between viewer and subject only serves to enhance a sense of distance and the past, reinforced by Anderson’s use of source imagery. Working from photographs, Anderson conjures a sense of memory through the documents of memory itself; his paintings are thus second-hand interpretations of a first-hand experience.
It is a working method that recalls the close bond Anderson forged with his teacher, Peter Doig, at the Royal College of Art. While Anderson’s work is more politically charged, the links between his and Doig’s artistic trajectory are exceptional. Both dealing with romantic notions of memory and the outsider, Anderson and Doig both worked in Trinidad but at different moments, and the present work is rendered with a light translucency that recalls Doig’s Trinidadian work. However, the magical realism of Doig’s exotic landscapes is here replaced with a more radical edge – where Doig finds escapism, Anderson finds colonialism.
This politicism of the landscape genre is testament to an artist who can masterfully pull from art history as much as he pushes the boundaries of contemporary painting. More memoryscape than landscape, Untitled (Beach Scene) is a pictorial reckoning on identity in flux; this painting speaks of an artist grappling with a heritage that stretches from Britain to Jamaica, and an identity, that for a time, took root in Trinidad.