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Peter's Series: Back
£600,000 - 900,000 ‡ ♠
sold for £1,809,000
Private Collection, USA
San Francisco, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Hurvin Anderson, 17 January - 28 February 2008
London, Tate Britain, Art Now: Hurvin Anderson. Peter’s Series. 2007 – 2009, 3 February - 19 April 2009, n.p. (illustrated)
New York, Studio Museum in Harlem, Peter’s Series 2007 - 2009, 16 July - 25 October 2009
Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Homebodies, 29 June - 13 October 2013
Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, exh.cat., Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2013, p. 84 (illustrated)
Peter’s Series: Back is a pivotal work from Hurvin Anderson’s esteemed Peter’s Series, a group of dynamic paintings and works on paper, which firmly established the artist’s practice on an international platform. Exhibited in Anderson’s celebrated solo exhibitions in 2009 at Tate Britain, London, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, Peter’s Series consists of eight paintings and over fifteen drawings, which Anderson began working on in 2007. Focusing on and revisiting the same subject matter in his painterly re-workings, Anderson’s series depicts an intimate attic space converted into a barbershop. The works from the series, reflecting an integral moment in the artist’s career, are housed in some of the most prominent public collections; Peter’s I is held in the Government Art Collection, London, and Peter’s Sitters II is part of the Zabludowicz Collection. Nominated for the 2017 Turner Prize, Anderson’s work has been internationally celebrated thanks to his profound representation of British and Caribbean culture, captured through a nostalgic lens, his canvases expertly traversing the lines of abstraction and figuration. Reducing the domestic attic space to a geometrically abstract setting, Anderson introduced the figure as the main focus of the canvas in his last three works within the series. With its centrally seated figure and exquisitely rendered interior, Peter’s Series: Back encapsulates Anderson’s development of his composition, where figure and background converge in a harmonious marriage of geometric planes, enriched colours and evocative intimacy.
Emigrating from Jamaica after the Second World War, Anderson’s parents were part of the Windrush generation of Caribbean migrants who arrived in Britain from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. Growing up in Birmingham, Anderson’s oeuvre reflects on his cultural experience being British-Jamaican and explores his ‘own relationship to the Caribbean’ (‘Hurvin Anderson in conversation with Thelma Golden’, Art Now: Hurvin Anderson. Peter’s Series. 2007 – 2009, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2009, n.p.). On arrival, the Caribbean migrants faced an unwelcome reception from their fellow British citizens, soon creating their own support networks inside community members’ houses. Establishing small churches, blues parties and Black salons or barbershops in domestic spaces, public social hubs for the Black community, such as dancehalls, were few and far between. A space to both socialise as well as have a haircut, black barbers became a convivial arena to relax and discuss politics, sport and current affairs. Anderson’s father would take the young artist to his friend Peter Brown’s attic room, which he had converted into a barbershop. On picking his father up one day, Anderson took a number of photographs to document the space: ‘At first it was the physical space itself that intrigued me, the attic seemed to have a presence; it seemed like somewhere that had been forgotten, some sort of secret meeting hall. I realised that there was something about the figure in the chair and the whole nature of that intimate but shared space that was compelling and that I wanted to paint’ (‘Hurvin Anderson in conversation with Thelma Golden’, Art Now: Hurvin Anderson. Peter’s Series. 2007 – 2009, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2009, n.p.). Anderson retrospectively studied his photographs of the room, which he amalgamated with his multiple memories of the space and imagination, to construct his dynamic and varied series.
Painted in January 2008, Peter’s Series: Back gracefully transcends both the figurative and abstract, depicting an unknown sitter pre- or post- haircut. The series provided Anderson with an aesthetic playground to explore the realms of detail, texture and abstraction. In his initial paintings, Peter’s I and Peter’s II, Anderson rendered figurative interiors, focusing on selected objects to record the space. By Peter’s III, however, Anderson’s shapes become flattened, reduced to their formal essence to promote their momentary physicality as if glimpsed or recalled from memory. In the last three canvasses from the series, Anderson transports the figure to the forefront of the paintings. As Anderson states ‘After dealing with the complexities of representing the barbershop itself, the last three paintings focus on the client and the viewer’s relationship to him’ (‘Hurvin Anderson in conversation with Thelma Golden’, Art Now: Hurvin Anderson. Peter’s Series. 2007 – 2009, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2009, n.p.). Mathematically calculated and meticulously planned, Anderson’s interior compositions display a sense of perspectival complexity, also evident in the work of Richard Diebenkorn, whereby the viewer feels as if they may be viewing the scene ‘slightly outside of things’ (Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, exh. cat., Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, September 2013, p. 7), while also assuming the dominant visual position. In Peter's Series: Back, subject matter, perspective and abstraction visually converge to produce a sumptuous energised scene, coursing with the tempo of daily life.
Whilst pioneering uniquely refreshing experimentations with perspectival composition, the present work continues a painterly dialogue with some of the most prolific artists of the twentieth century. The influence of Henri Matisse’s dissonant colours, naïve brushstrokes and geometric interiors are evident in Peter’s Series: Back, as well as the intimate treatment of the figure, as seen in David Hockney’s canvasses. Turquoise blue floods our eye line, deep and tropical like the Caribbean Sea, contrasting with the geometric sections of brown floor, adorned walls and white ceiling overhead. Light accents highlight areas of the floor, while the central figure sits poised on an office chair ready for his cut, emphasising the homeliness of the scene. Also depicted is a radiogram which holds particular cultural resonance for the contemporary Afro-Caribbean community, occupying ‘a space like a religious object. It was not just a tool, but tremendously important because it was a way of bringing back home into the new place through Caribbean music… it was a subversive machine because it was carrying a different message: a message about the past, about memory, about home, about a new generation, about making a life in this rather inhospitable cultural climate.’ (Michael McMillan, ed., The Front Room: Migrant Aesthetics in the Home, London, 2009). Imbued with social history, the canvas oscillates between the past and present, the near and far, like a radio tuning in and out of reception.
Peter’s Series: Back conveys a timeless quality where the viewer is suspended in Anderson’s architectural microcosm, our viewpoint commanding the picture’s perspective. On inspection, however, the walls and ceiling in the attic room seem to shift as if in motion. In the present work there is an uncanny sense of dream-like dislocation where the coloured planes slide together in a transitory puzzle. Working primarily from photos, as well as his own personal thoughts, Anderson’s Peter’s Series explores the intangibility of memory and how it’s informed by various experiences, life events and visual signifiers. A formalisation of numerous recollections, Andersons’s panelled pictures also introduce the idea that the harmony of an image is comprised of a choir of different voices. Opening the pictorial space as an inclusive realm, Anderson invites the viewer to bring their own cultural experiences and memories to the canvas, thus creating a visual tension where viewer and artist are connected in their contextualisation of the imagery presented to us. It is this evocative quality, as well as its poignant subject matter and rich palette, which make Peter’s Series: Back a charming rarity in British contemporary painting.
Peter's Series: Back
£600,000 - 900,000 ‡ ♠
sold for £1,809,000
London Auction 6 October 2017