Hurvin Anderson - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'In real life, the space I occupy is not the space where you can do everything that you want, it’s only in painting that you can do everything you want.'
    —Hurvin Anderson

    Executed in luscious washes of greens, yellows and blues and hovering on the very edges of abstraction,Untitled (Handsworth Park) is an important and particularly vibrant representation of Turner Prize-nominee Hurvin Anderson’s early work, and its evocative examination of identity, displacement and belonging remains absolutely central to his painting today. Completed in the same year that he graduated from the Royal College of Art, the monumental Untitled (Handsworth Park) is a foundational work in Anderson’s celebrated oeuvre, articulating his deep and sustained engagement with a history of British landscape painting, while establishing his unique pictorial language and approach to painterly technique. 


    Park Life:

    '… it was, he told me, the first landscape he felt connected to, a place that exists yet is just out of reach – a sense of dislocation that is, perhaps, something experienced by many first and second-generation migrants.'
    —Jennifer Higgie
    Born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents who settled in the Midlands after their emigration in the early 1960s, the shimmering surfaces of Anderson’s landscapes seem pervaded by an intense nostalgia. With careful attention to composition, colour and the vicissitudes of time and memory, his work captures that dual vision of both here and there or, as the artist puts it himself, of being in one place ‘but actually thinking of another’.As the recent exhibition Life Between Islands: Caribbean-Britih Art 1950s – Now highlighted, this is a rich vein running though Anderson’s practice, and one he shares with other diasporic or otherwise displaced artists. Often mentioned in close connection to Peter Doig, who has been something of a mentor for the younger artist, the two also share an artist vocabulary for approaching this subject, their paintings sometimes appearing washed in a diaphanous veil that places the viewer at a step removed from the scene in front of them, as in Doig’s Music of the Future.


    As the painting’s title clearly identifies, the scene is a view out across Handsworth Park, Birmingham, where Anderson remembers playing football as a youth – a subject he has subsequently returned to again and again throughout his career working across photographs and memories. Although clearly identifiable as such, the vibrant intensity of Andersons’s palette here is transformative. Working in tandem with the iridescent qualities of the painted surface, it generates a distorting double vison that falls like a veil between the artist and the scene in front of him ‘as if he’s examining these sites from a great distance, even though they’re part of his heritage.’ii

    Handsworth Park, Birmingham. Photograph by Hurvin Anderson, c. 1983. Image: © Hurvin Anderson. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022

    Deeply invested in the patterns and powers of memory, Anderson’s compositions are never straightforwardly representational, but collapse time and space as they bring a complex mesh of disparate or loosely connected ideas or feelings together in a single frame. Just as Anderson’s focus on the barber shop as a makeshift space that served a community’s practical as well as social needs in his celebrated Peter series can be read as studies in ‘psychological interiors’, the artist’s Untitled (Handsworth Park) works explore the aesthetic possibilities of a ‘psychological landscape’, operating in a zone between physical landscape and composite memory, and examining the imbrication of the self with the physical world.


    British Landscape Tradition:


    Joseph Mallord William Turner, Mortlake Terrace, 1827, National Gallery of Washington, D.C. Image: Courtesy of National Gallery of Washington, D.C., Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.109

    'Painting is a practice with a history'
    —Michael J. Prokopow

    A keen student of European art history, Anderson’s paintings maintain a particularly lively dialogue with a tradition of British landscape painting. Emphasising the natural world and the individual’s emotional response to it, British Romanticism seems to be a particular touchstone, the layered allusions, and careful attention to shifting atmospheric effects of J. M. W. Turner’s canvases offering an antecedent to Anderson’s own shifting landscapes. Citing John Constable and William Coldstream as influences, Anderson enters into this history as a way of exploring ‘how history plays a part in the present’ – not just art history, but the intersections of the landscape with a variety of social, economic, and political factors that is deeply implicated in the British Colonial project.iii


    In the face of industrialisation at home and expanding colonial interests abroad, the idea of the bucolic British landscape solidified over the course of the nineteenth century as a way of condensing an idea of English nationhood and identity. Founded in the 1880s, Untitled (Handsworth Park) itself was a response to the very pressing need for salubrious green space on the one-hand and the mania for picturesque scenery and ‘prospect views’ on the other. Celebrating an idealised version of tamed nature and foregrounding powerful themes of ownership, dominance and control that underpinned the British Empire’s exploitation of land and resources abroad, beautiful landscapes effectively masked the power relations of the colonial system that fed directly into the wealth and prosperity of the country while directly shaping certain ideas around its national identity. 


    John Constable, Wivenhoe Park, 1816, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Image: Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Widener Collection, 1942.9.10

    Emerging as one of Europe’s most culturally diverse communities in the 1950s with the arrival of Windrush emigrants, Handsworth’s history is itself profoundly shaped by the legacies of Empire and colonialism. Keenly aware of this fusion of Caribbean heritage within British culture, and of the tensions between the vison of a welcoming motherland and the harsher reality for so many Windrush migrants, Anderson would have no doubt witnessed first-hand the violence and racial tensions that marked Handsworth in the early 1980s. While this overt socio-political context is not immediately present in the quiet, depopulated scene, the shimmering landscape seems to capture a sense of this loaded history, and of the genre’s own complex relationship to ideas of nationhood and identity. 


    Establishing a visual relationship between the tarmacked path and the grassy hillside, Anderson draws attention to the question of our intervention in the landscape, and of our assumptions around ideas of the ‘natural’. Veiled in a pale, almost translucent wash of layered paints overlaying a complex surface moving between staccato brushstrokes, the precise outline of bare branches puncturing the background, and watery passages left to run down the surface of the canvas, Untitled (Handsworth Park) seems to present something to us that is visible, but that remains just beyond our reach.   


    Collector’s Digest 

    •    Splitting his childhood between the UK and the Caribbean, Hurvin Anderson’s work looks closely at the relationship between landscapes – real and imagined - and identity.

    •    Having exhibited widely in recent years, Anderson was recently included in Life Between Islands: Caribbean British Art 50’s – Now at the Tate Britain, which explores how British culture has been enriched and transformed by people from the Caribbean. The exhibition is on view until 3 April 2022.

    •    In 2017, Anderson was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize.


    i Hurvin Anderson, quoted in Michael J. Prokopow, Hurvin Anderson, London, 2021, p. 16.
    ii Jennifer Higgie, ‘Another Word for Feeling’, Hurvin Anderson: Reporting Back (exh. cat.), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 20013, p. 14.  
    iii Hurvin Anderson, quoted by Barry Scwabsky in his foreword to Michael J. Prokopow, Hurvin Anderson, London, 2021.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from an Esteemed Private Collection


Untitled (Handsworth Park)

signed 'HURVIN ANDERSON' on the stretcher
oil on canvas
205 x 244 cm (80 3/4 x 96 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1998.

Full Cataloguing

£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 ‡♠

Sold for £1,337,250

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022