Gallery: Denzil ForresterNovember 2–December 17, 2016
White Columns is proud to present the first exhibition in the United States by Denzil Forrester (b.1956 Grenada, lives and works in London and Truro, UK). This is the second of two recent exhibitions to focus on Forrester’s work from the 1980s (the first is currently on view at London’s Tramps gallery through 3 December). The exhibitions have been curated by the artist Peter Doig and White Columns’ director Matthew Higgs.
The White Columns exhibition will focus on Forrester’s work from the early 1980s, paintings and drawings made in direct response to the burgeoning dub reggae scene in London’s Afro-Caribbean communities. For many years Forrester made drawings in situ in London’s reggae dance halls and unlicensed ‘blues’ parties, where the soundtrack was invariably provided by the legendary dub DJ Jah Shaka (the subject of a number of key paintings by Forrester from this time).
Talking about this era in 1986, and the social and cultural context that his work drew from, Forrester said:
In 1980 I started going to all night ‘blues’ clubs. The music played in these clubs is reggae which generates particular dance movements and specialized clothing; all of which play an important part in my painting. In these clubs, city life is recreated in essence; sounds, lights, police sirens, bodies pushing and swaying back and forth. It’s a continuation of city life with some spiritual fulfilment. The idea of finding tranquil moments among a complex and cluttered environment is the basic structure for my paintings. The figures and images in my work are crowded together, whereas the spaces in between echo the music of the ‘blues’ clubs, but are also reminiscent of the light that breaks through a forest, or the light that reflects from a night club’s mirrored ball. So sound, nature and the city are linked.
In his early 1980s works, Forrester makes visible what might otherwise have remained fleeting or obscured: i.e. the social spaces, the nocturnal communities, and the shared experience of London’s dub subculture. In a parallel series of works – made concurrently with his dub paintings – Forrester focused on the policing of the Afro-Caribbean community in London, and in particular the 1981 death of his friend Winston Rose in police custody; both exposing and illuminating the social and political injustices faced by Britain’s Afro-Caribbean community at the outset of the Thatcher era.
Denzil Forrester (b. 1956 Grenada). Forrester received a BA in Fine Art from the Central School of Art, London in 1979, and an MA in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art, London in 1983. He was awarded the Rome Scholarship in 1983-85 and a Harkness Fellowship in New York in 1986-88. His work was the subject of a traveling survey ‘Dub Transition: A Decade of Paintings 1980-1990’ in the U.K. (1990-1991), and a solo exhibition at Victoria Street, Bristol in 2002. His work has been included in many group exhibitions, including the 1986 exhibition ‘From Two Worlds’ at London’s Whitechapel Gallery.
White Columns would like to express its gratitude to Denzil Forrester, Peter Doig, Parinaz Mogadassi, Deborah Phillips, and Alastair MacKinven for their enthusiastic collaboration on this exhibition.
A talk between Denzil Forrester, Peter Doig, and Matthew Higgs took place on November 4, 2016 at White Columns, watch the talk here: https://vimeo.com/album/4247494
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