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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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Hurvin Anderson
B. 1965
UNTITLED
signed and dated 1998 on the stretcher
oil on canvas
137.5 by 180 cm. 43 1/8 by 70 7/8 in.
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Provenance

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1998

Catalogue Note

Untitled is a remarkably early distillation of many of the formal and conceptual tenets that have defined Hurvin Anderson’s career. Combining thick impasto on the flags in the upper register with carefully modulated washes and swiftly applied tranches of oil in the lower section, reminiscent of Peter Doig and Gerhard Richter respectively, the work is a virtuosic technical display that bears witness to what the curator of Anderson’s pivotal exhibition at Ikon Gallery in 2013 described as a balancing act “between an ostensibly figurative style and tendency to abstraction” (Jennifer Higgie cited in: Exh. Cat., Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, Hurvin Anderson: Reporting Back, 2013, p. 7). Executed in 1998, the year that Anderson completed his MA at the Royal College of Art in London, the works presages many of the conceptual concerns regarding black identity in the United Kingdom and the status of the post-colonial Caribbean that have led to Anderson becoming one of the most celebrated British painters of his generation.

Most notably, the artist has said that the Cuban flags in the upper register are in homage to the Black Star Line, Marcus’s Garvey’s all-black shipping corporation, which transported goods and people between Central America, the United States and the African continent. The Black Star Line’s maiden voyage, and thus the first shipping operation in history with an all-black crew and black captain, took it to Cuba, and indeed much of the funding for the ill-fated enterprise, which through a combination of mismanagement and sabotage by J Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation only lasted for three years, came from Cuban businessmen (Frank Andre Guridy, Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow, Chapel Hill 2010, p. 79). A major symbol of black independence and the Return to Africa movement, Anderson’s reference to the Black Star Line in the present work is hugely significant. Garvey’s corporation served as an attempt to give autonomy and heritage back to an institutionally marginalised and de-historicised group, and for Anderson, a man whose parents were members of the Windrush generation, the lingering rhetorical power of this attempt must have been extremely powerful.

Indeed, the notions of diaspora and displacement are recurrent themes in Anderson’s work, as they are in Untitled. Despite the Cuban flags along the top of the painting, between the two walls we see a provincial, decidedly English-looking house, its windows lit up, providing cosy refuge against the cold. Indeed, even the flags appear to be hung on a washing line that cuts through the scene in a fashion analogous to the telegraph wire in Doig’s Daytime Astronomy. This juxtaposition of cultural signifiers is typical of Anderson’s practice. As Jennifer Higgie notes of Anderson’s work, “histories and memories intertwine; an English landscape might echo a garden in the Caribbean, and vice versa” (op. cit., p. 11). Just as when Anderson first visited Trinidad in the early 2000s he experienced a sense of both belonging and displacement – despite his having never been there before, people assumed he was a local – Untitled depicts a liminal space which seems at once familiar and alien. As Eddie Chambers noted with regard to the Welcome and Peter’s series, Anderson’s best works “depict a kind of intermediate space in which a range of elements… occupy a private universe decidedly different from that occupied by the viewer” (Ibid., p. 77). Epitomising this effect with its enigmatic composition and loaded subject matter, combined with Anderson’s masterful handling of paint, Untitled shows itself to be a work of immense quality that foreshadows many of the qualities that have brought Hurvin Anderson to international acclaim. 

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London