Denzil Forrester in Rome




Stephen Friedman Gallery presents ‘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.

Duration 05 October 2020 - 31 October 2020
Times Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–5pm
Cost free
Venue Stephen Friedman Gallery
Address 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London, W1S 3AN
Contact / info@stephenfriedman.com / www.stephenfriedman.com/

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