11
JUMP TO LOT
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Hurvin Anderson
B. 1965
SOME PEOPLE (WELCOME SERIES)
signed and titled on the reverse
oil on canvas
150 by 232 cm. 59 by 91 3/8 in.
Executed in 2004.
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Provenance

Thomas Dane Gallery, London

Acquired  from the above by the present owner in 2004

Exhibited

Paris, Le Plateau, Fonds regional d'art contemporain d'Ile-de-France; and London, Camden Arts Centre, Archipeinture: Painters build architecture, March - September 2006, n.p., illustrated in colour

Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, reporting back, September - November 2013, pp. 48-49, illustrated in colour

Literature

Alice Spawls, ‘Painting in its Place’, Apollo, London, September 2016, p. 65, no. 6, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Peppered with half-remembered details of a place once visited, Some People (Welcome Series) is the strongest painting from a body of work that has had an immense impact on Hurvin Anderson’s practice. A vibrant red and white interior scene is subdivided by a tessellating grille with each segment rendered a minute geometric abstraction by its interior frame. Punctuating details, such as the garland hanging across the ceiling of the room, the reflective top of the bar and, most noticeably, the posters of semi-naked women that plaster the walls, lend the scene a sense of familiarity. These minutiae foreshadow works from Peter’s Series, a pivotal group of paintings from the late 2000s that depict fondly remembered makeshift barbershops in Anderson’s home city of Birmingham. These spaces served as social hubs for Afro-Caribbean immigrants upon their arrival in the United Kingdom, a simulacrum of the bars that they had left behind, such as the subject of the present work. The two series are also bound by their immense depth of composition. As Thelma Golden, director of The Studio Museum in Harlem at the time of Anderson’s exhibition there, noted, “All of Hurvin’s work seems to me to incorporate an intense amount of depth. Depth of field, depth of colour, and even depth of subject” (Thelma Golden in conversation with Vicky Lowry, ‘Hurvin Anderson’, Elle Decor, April 2011, p. 88). However, this depth of field is, as Eddie Chambers points out, “somewhat disconcerting” as it renders the viewer “uncertain as to what might lie immediately behind the patterned grille” (Eddie Chambers, ‘Double Consciousness’, in: Exh. Cat., Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, 2013, p. 77). The space depicted is thus an intermediate one, insistently occupying a different plane to the viewer, and rendering him voyeur to the scene that unfolds in front of him.

This effect is entirely characteristic of a series whose primary aim is to confront the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean. Its subject derives from a visit that Anderson made to Trinidad in the early 2000s. Upon visiting, the artist experienced a sense of dislocation: 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, it was in the literal construction of barriers in Trinidad that Anderson found his most effective visual representation of this pervasive feeling. As he wandered through the towns, he was struck by the ornate grilles that blocked every doorway. Ostensibly decorative, there is no ambiguity regarding their true purpose. Through these grilles the interiors become caged entities, confined and threatened. The viewer looks through the bars of this cage as he would in a zoo, the women on the walls objectified, 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.

This heightened awareness of the roles of viewer and subject mirrors the pioneering works of Anderson’s American contemporary Kerry James Marshall, whose paintings depict real or fictionalised scenes from African American history in an attempt to rewrite a whitewashed history of art. In both cases, the viewer is forced to confront the role of a dominant white narrative in art criticism and appreciation. Anderson thus creates a psychological barrier to entry for the viewer in addition to the literal barrier of the grille itself, 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. Thus the ironic ‘welcome’ written on the bars that block both viewer and pedestrian, take on a subsequent meaning, as the interior is subdivided and confined for the pleasure of a viewer who is prevented from taking it in. The colonial legacy of widespread crime is evident here as well. As Jennifer Higgie notes in her introductory text for Anderson’s vital survey exhibition at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in 2013, when she first saw these paintings she “read the starbursts as targets, as if the blood-red cracks were created by a gun-shot” (Jennifer Higgie, ‘Another word for feeling’, in: ibid., p. 13). In the present work, the bars are both protection and threat, but in both cases have an intrusive and disquieting effect. As the artist observed, “When you paint the grilles, you feel like you’re cutting into the landscape, a sacred thing. They are not supposed to be there” (Hurvin Anderson cited in: ibid., p. 13).

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London