Denzil Forrester in Rome Frieze Masters 2020 Presentation

Denzil Forrester in Rome

Frieze Masters 2020 Presentation
5 - 31 October 2020
/

Overview

Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present ‘Denzil Forrester in Rome’, a selection of large-scale paintings and works on paper by Grenada-born, British artist Denzil Forrester.

In 1983, Forrester was awarded a two-year scholarship by the British School at Rome in Italy. The works made there represent a defining moment in the artist's practice in which his frenetic depictions of London nightclub scenes are treated with the clarity and intensity of Rome’s natural light and rich art history. Initially intended for Frieze Masters, the gallery presents Forrester’s solo project in a specially designed space at 30 Old Burlington Street.

‘Denzil Forrester in Rome’ explores the formative role of Forrester’s fellowship at the British School at Rome from 1983 to 1985. Exhibited together for the first time, these works reverberate with light and colour, synthesising Forrester’s new-found experiences of Rome with his West Indian roots and love of London’s dub scene. Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, describes how on his arrival in Rome, Forrester felt that "the colours were just singing like mad".  In Italy, Forrester continued to work directly from sketches made back in London of nocturnal revellers dancing to the sets of legendary DJs such as Jah Shaka. Removed from the original experience, he could revisit the subject from memory with renewed intensity.

Forrester incorporates numerous art-historical and architectural references in these works. The artist’s sweeping compositions from this period were inspired by aerial configurations of Rome’s circular piazzas, as well as fountains encountered in the gardens of the Villa Borghese adjacent to the British School at Rome. Forrester has said: “The figurative content in the Rome paintings is inspired by watching Romany people use the fountains to wash their clothes. After spreading them to dry, they would fall asleep on the bank.” The artist has also spoken of his fascination with Old Masters such as Caravaggio and the lasting impression of the intensity and drama of the Italian master’s works. The sense of movement, bold arrangement of colour, dynamic use of line and fragmented picture planes within Forrester’s scenes also evoke Italian Futurism. A painting that the artist made after he returned to the UK is also on view to demonstrate the enduring influence of the residency on his work.

Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present ‘Denzil Forrester in Rome’, a selection of large-scale paintings and works on paper by Grenada-born, British artist Denzil Forrester. In 1983, Forrester was awarded a two-year scholarship by the British School at Rome in Italy. The works made there represent a defining moment in the artist's practice in which his frenetic depictions of London nightclub scenes are treated with the clarity and intensity of Rome’s natural light and rich art history. Initially intended for Frieze Masters, the gallery presents Forrester’s solo project in a specially designed space at 30 Old Burlington Street.

‘Denzil Forrester in Rome’ explores the formative role of Forrester’s fellowship at the British School at Rome from 1983 to 1985. Exhibited together for the first time, these works reverberate with light and colour, synthesising Forrester’s new-found experiences of Rome with his West Indian roots and love of London’s dub scene. Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, describes how on his arrival in Rome, Forrester felt that "the colours were just singing like mad". In Italy, Forrester continued to work directly from sketches made back in London of nocturnal revellers dancing to the sets of legendary DJs such as Jah Shaka. Removed from the original experience, he could revisit the subject from memory with renewed intensity.

Forrester incorporates numerous art-historical and architectural references in these works. The artist’s sweeping compositions from this period were inspired by aerial configurations of Rome’s circular piazzas, as well as fountains encountered in the gardens of the Villa Borghese adjacent to the British School at Rome. Forrester has said: “The figurative content in the Rome paintings is inspired by watching Romany people use the fountains to wash their clothes. After spreading them to dry, they would fall asleep on the bank.” The artist has also spoken of his fascination with Old Masters such as Caravaggio and the lasting impression of the intensity and drama of the Italian master’s works. The sense of movement, bold arrangement of colour, dynamic use of line and fragmented picture planes within Forrester’s scenes also evoke Italian Futurism. A painting that the artist made after he returned to the UK is also on view to demonstrate the enduring influence of the residency on his work.

A highlight in the presentation is a monumental diptych titled 'Blue Tent', one of the largest works that Forrester created in Rome. While making studies in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, a park adjacent to the British School at Rome, Forrester came upon a large, blue tent being erected in preparation for a performance. Transfixed by the movement of the fabric in the wind, Forrester went on to integrate the structure into a large nightclub painting he was working on – here, the folds of fabric are evocative of arms and legs criss-crossing one another. Forrester wanted 'Blue Tent' to capture the dynamism of the music played at the Notting Hill Carnival, complete with looming sound systems, jostling bodies and expressive costumes.

Born in Grenada in 1956, Denzil Forrester moved to London in 1967. He now lives and works in Cornwall. 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.

For four decades, Forrester’s works have captured the transcendental rhythms of the London reggae and dub scene of the early 1980s. Combining ecstatic, gestural forms with vivid colour, Forrester’s dynamic compositions immortalise the characters and vibrant energy of London’s underground nightclubs. In contrast to the joyful liberation depicted in these works, his paintings simultaneously explore the racial and social injustice experienced in 1980s Britain. Policemen frequently feature as menacing figures in his works, whilst others depict the events surrounding the untimely death of his friend Winston Rose.

Forrester's first solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery opened in April 2019, accompanied by a monograph with texts by Peter Doig, Matthew Higgs and Sam Thorne. A large-scale public artwork by Forrester for Brixton Underground Station, London was unveiled by TFL in September 2019. Forrester’s mid-career survey ‘Itchin & Scratchin’ will travel to Spike Island, Bristol in October 2020 from Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham. Forrester’s work will feature in a major exhibition at Tate Britain, London in 2021 devoted to Caribbean connections in British art since the 1950s.

Forrester’s works can be found in the collections of Tate, London; Arts Council Collection; and Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, among many others. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues including The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Tate Britain, London; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Royal Academy of Arts, London; and Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow. His work was the focus of three solo shows curated by Peter Doig and Matthew Higgs at White Columns, New York (2016); Tramps, London (2016); and Jackson Foundation, St Just, Cornwall (2018).

 

Stephen Friedman Gallery is open through observation of physical distancing measures. We welcome you and ask that you please adhere to the following:

  • There is no need to book your visit in advance. However, we will be operating with a limit of six persons in the gallery at any one time and implementing physical distancing measures throughout. Should there be six people in the gallery when you arrive, we will politely ask you to queue outside the gallery using the distanced markers, or return a little later. 

  • Gallery staff will be on hand to assist you and answer any queries but we please ask you to maintain the 2 metre distance when conversing. Markings on the floor will provide guidance. Please note there will be no physical contact between staff and visitors, such as handshakes.

  • You will be asked to wear a face mask for the duration of your visit and to sanitise with antibacterial gel immediately upon entering the gallery.

  • Upon arrival, we will ask you to complete the NHS Track & Trace procedure via a QR code. This will only take a moment and means that you can be contacted should a member of staff or recent visitor with whom you might have come into contact contract COVID-19. 

Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present ‘Denzil Forrester in Rome’, a selection of large-scale paintings and works on paper by Grenada-born, British artist Denzil Forrester.

Opening hours

30 Old Burlington Street, W1S 3AR; Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–5pm (click 'Read more' to view Covid-19 measures)

Virtual Tour

Left: Denzil Forrester’s application to the British School at Rome scholarship (1982). Right: An acceptance letter from the British School at Rome to Denzil Forrester (1983).
Left: Denzil Forrester’s report following his first year at the British School at Rome (1984). Right: Portrait of Denzil Forrester sitting in front of ‘Wolf Singer’ (1984).
'I believe Denzil is one of the most important painters to come out of London in the early '80s and...
Installation view: 'Denzil Forrester: A Survey', Solo Exhibition, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2019).

"I believe Denzil is one of the most important painters to come out of London in the early '80s and his early works remain as relevant and vital today as when they were first made."

 

- Peter Doig, in Denzil Forrester, edited by Gerrie van Noord and Jonanthan Horrocks; published by on the occasion of  'Denzil Forrester: A Survey' (2019), the artist's first solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

 

"The beginning of the eighties was a very magical and active time, full of satisfying images for me. These blues clubs are a continuation of city life with some spiritual fulfilment. The words of this music tell of ‘the bad man’ in society i.e. politicians, police, businessman and all their bad policies, but because of the dep hypnotic ancestral beat, dub music makes one feel purified, strong, and free of the complicated network we live in."

- Denzil Forrester (1987).

'seen afresh in the clear Roman light, he noticed how different it felt: ‘the colours were just singing like mad’'...
Phillippa Clayden (Denzil Forrester’s partner) sitting on a fountain in the gardens of the Villa Borghese (1983).

"seen afresh in the clear Roman light, he noticed how different it felt: ‘the colours were just singing like mad’"

 

- Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary and Contributing Editor of Frieze, 'Denzil Forrester: Ghosts, Echoes Returns', in Denzil Forrester, edited by Gerrie van Noord and Jonanthan Horrocks; published by on the occasion of  'Denzil Forrester: A Survey' (2019), the artist's first solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

<p><span>Portrait of Denzil Forrester standing in front of ‘Wolf Singer’ (1984).</span></p>
<p><span>Portrait of Denzil Forrester in Rome (1984).</span></p>
<p><span>Denzil Forrester in his Rome studio working on ‘Dub’ (1985).</span></p>
<p><span>Contact prints from Denzil Forrester’s time in Rome (1984).</span></p>
<p>Denzil Forrester, 'Three Wicked Men', 1982, Tate Collection, UK.</p>
<p>Installation view: ‘Itchin & Scratchin’, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2020).</p>
<p>Installation view: ‘Itchin & Scratchin’, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2020).</p>
<p>Installation view: '<span>Brixton Blue’, TFL Commission, Brixton Underground Station, London (2019).</span></p>
<p>Installation view: ‘A Survey’, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2019).</p>
<p>Installation view: <span>‘Artists | Steal From’, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2019).</span></p>
<p>Installation view: <span>‘Get Up, Stand Up </span><span>Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers’</span><span>, Somerset House, London (2019).</span><span><br /></span></p>
<p>Installation view: <span>White Columns, New York, NY (2016).</span></p>
Play
Pause

Denzil Forrester – ‘You Have to Find Your Niche’ | TateShots

Copyright Tate, London (2017)
DENZIL FORRESTER, b. 1956, Grenada Denzil Forrester's vibrant, colourful works immortalise the dynamic energy of the London reggae and dub...
Portrait of Denzil Forrester in Rome (1984).

DENZIL FORRESTERb. 1956, Grenada

Denzil Forrester's vibrant, colourful works immortalise the dynamic energy of the London reggae and dub nightclub scene during the early 1980s. Born in Grenada in 1956, Denzil Forrester moved to London in 1967. He now lives and works in Cornwall, UK. 

Pulsating with rhythm, the artist's expressive depictions of dance halls and clubs capture crowds of people moving in unison with the beat of the music. Flashes of vivid colour, gestural brushstrokes and frenetic compositions characterise his work. Forrester explains: “I just wanted to draw movement, action and expression. I was interested in the energy of the crowd, particular dance movements and what the clubbers wore. In these clubs, city life is recreated in essence: sounds, lights, police sirens, bodies pushing and swaying in a smoke-filled room.”

Forrester’s work will feature in a major exhibition devoted to Caribbean connections in British art since the 1950s at Tate Britain, London in 2021. 'Itchin & Scratchin', a major solo exhibition of new and historical works, will travel to Spike Island, Bristol in October 2020 after opening at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham in February 2020. A large-scale public artwork by Forrester for Brixton Underground Station, London was unveiled by TFL in September 2019. Forrester's first solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery opened in April 2019, accompanied by a monograph with texts by Peter Doig, Matthew Higgs and Sam Thorne.

Receive our newsletter

Receive information about exhibitions, artists and events.
We will process the personal data you have supplied in accordance with our privacy policy. You can unsubscribe or change your preferences at any time by clicking the link in any emails.
    Close

    Your favourites

    Create a list of works then send us an enquiry.
    No items found