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.
‘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.
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