The Urgency of the Arts Talk: Denzil Forrester and Matthew Higgs
23 October 2019 | 6pm 7pm
Free, booking required
In collaboration with Art on the Underground and Royal College of Art.
As part of Denzil Forrester’s forthcoming UK public commission with Art on the Underground, join the artist and Matthew Higgs, Director of White Columns in New York for a lively discussion on the artist’s practice, teaching and inspirations.
For nearly four decades, Forrester’s paintings have been rooted in, and provide commentary on, the Afro-Caribbean experience in London. Pulsating with rhythm and an extraordinary use of colour, Forrester’s expressive depictions of dance halls and clubs captured the crowds moving in unison to the beat of the music. In contrast to the joy of his night-time revellers, Forrester concurrently created a series of works which subliminally revealed the rising tensions between police and the Afro-Caribbean community during the late 1970s and early 80s, which culminated in the 1981 Brixton Riots.
Through his energetic paintings, Forrester continues to make work about the past and present aspects of his life. For this commission, the artist has reinterpreted his seminal work Three Wicked Men (1982), now in the collection of Tate, London, into an immersive, large-scale painting. Made during his time at the Royal College of Art, Forrester has returned to Three Wicked Men several times over the decades. The title was borrowed from a track by Reggae George, released a year earlier, in which Forrester identifies the three men as a policeman, a politician and a businessman. In Forrester’s painted versions, the latter figure is often replaced by a Rasta. Reflective of the contemporary black experience and the racial tensions of the time, the painting features Winston Rose; a friend of Forrester’s who died whilst under police restraint in 1981 and which would continue to haunt many of his paintings for the next decade.
Forrester is the third commission in a new series at Brixton, following on from Njideka Akunyili Crosby in 2018 and Aliza Nisenbaum in 2019. The programme selects artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the murals from the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.