Thursday, 20 February 2020

'Denzil's Dance'....

Pinter Denzil Forrester
Happy New Year! I know it’s the middle of February but still…

I’m writing this this evening having had a nice trip to Nottingham today on the train, despite the lashing down rain, to visit ‘Itchin and Scratchin’, an exhibition of paintings by Denzil Forrester, the largest survey of his work to date, at Nottingham Contemporary. I’ve mentioned my enthusiasm for Denzil’s paintings previously on this blog, and it was a real thrill to go and see the paintings in the flesh today.
An early painting of Denzil's from 1978, 'The Cave', oil on canvas, 146 x 170cms
The exhibition was a nice mixture of early developing work, his paintings of dub and blues clubs in East London from the Eighties, and a room of new, very large paintings inspired by the artist’s first trip to Jamaica just recently.
Velvet Rush, 2018, oil on canvas, 80½ x 107⅝ inches
They looked great, and some of the earlier Eighties ones were so complex in their depiction of space and movement combined with the dancing figures in a swirling maelstrom of fragmented marks, like shards of glass, and myriad colours. 
'Catch a Fire', oil on canvas, 180 x 150cm, 2010
The use of colour was strikingly sophisticated, but equally striking was Forrester’s wonderful, sensitive draughtsmanship, particularly in the depictions of the figures. I was especially drawn to the
beautiful hands in so many of the paintings. 
'All Hands on Deck', oil on canvas, 153 x 183cms, 2003
Although the work emerged from an Eighties art scene which saw a huge resurgence in figurative painting, much of it reaching back to earlier Modernist movements such as Expressionism, that has been largely derided since, and Denzil’s work can be seen in this context- indeed a lot of the work seems to borrow liberally from artists such as Kirchner, and movements such as Futurism and Cubism- the work seems to stand up on it’s own today. 
'Night Strobe', oil on canvas, 213 x 152cms, 1990
It looked really fresh, vibrant and original, despite the influences, and a unique depiction of the Afro-Caribbean culture it has it’s roots in. I think the reason for this lies in the artist’s highly developed technical skills compared to many of the other painters from the Eighties. It’s great to see him finally getting some long overdue recognition.