Beaver Lake

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1998

  • Exhibited

    London, Royal College of Art, Graduate Show, 4 - 14 June 1998
    Berlin, VeneKlasen Werner, Self-Consciousness, 30 March - 26 June 2010
    Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, 25 September - 10 November 2013, pp. 11-12, 18-19 and 135 (illustrated, p. 19)

  • Video

    Hurvin Anderson, 'Beaver Lake', Lot 11

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Catalogue Essay

    An arresting early work painted at the dawn of Hurvin Anderson’s career, Beaver Lake, 1998, presents an image that spans photographic imagery, painterly portraiture and sheer imagination, meandering between figuration and abstraction. In the composition, two shrouded figures – an adult and a child – are wrapped in winter attire as they traverse a frozen lake. Showing their backs to a reddish landscape, the figures are haloed from above by a blue-green sky that radiates shafts of colour below their feet. Exemplary of Anderson’s unique pictorial practice, the painting was created alongside a sister work entitled Mount Royal (Lac des Castors), 1998, and featured in the artist’s graduate show at the Royal College of Art, London. Culled from a clear photographic foundation, both works offer loose pictorial interpretations of the eponymous Albertan Lake that Anderson’s sister visited when she emigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom. Though it references a specific moment and place – picturing her and her young child braving the landscape’s icy grounds – Beaver Lake transcends its source document and exemplifies a kind of muted vibrancy that has since become synonymous with Anderson’s unique visual language. Celebrated most prominently on the occasion of his Turner Prize nomination in 2017, the artist’s body of work was moreover given a potent spotlight during his major solo exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, in 2013, which included the present work.

    A further testament to the painting’s unparalleled psychological force, Beaver Lake was selected for inclusion in ‘Self-Consciousness’, a group exhibition that took place at VeneKlasen Werner, Berlin in 2010, and was curated by Hilton Als, staff writer at The New Yorker, and Peter Doig, Anderson’s long-time artistic mentor. Presented alongside works by forty-one international and cross-generational artists, including Giorgio de Chirico, Alice Neel, Chris Ofili and Boscoe Holder, Beaver Lake proposed a fresh reinvention of the show’s central theme of portraiture. With its passages of abstraction, principally occurring in the background of the composition where the picture plane is bisected into two vast expanses of blue and light grey, Beaver Lake pushed the stylistic possibilities of portraiture in painting whilst resonating with the two curators’ artistic and literary sensibilities.

    Painted when Anderson was just in his early 30s, Beaver Lake’s misty association to a real space and event presages the artist’s subsequent body of work, equally defined by a heady mix of bright colours and diaphanous washes whilst remaining rooted in reality. Focusing on the theme of physical and conceptual displacement, it namely provided a pictorial precedent for his celebrated Lower Lake series portraying Handworth Park, Birmingham – a place where he spent much of his youth, and the first landscape to which he felt truly connected. Fascinated by the subject of lakes, and a number of other vast settings including tennis courts, roads and forests, Anderson has since continued exploring the unnamable topography of real spaces, usually emptied or populated by enigmatic ghostly presences. Exploiting the human sentiments that are typically associated with physical domains when they are barren – nostalgia, longing, and an intermingling of melancholia and uncanniness – the artist has created an atmosphere that is redolent of Richard Diebenkorn’s Girl Looking at Landscape, 1957, where the depicted character’s meditative body language, her back turned to the viewer, transforms the surrounding scenery into a space devoid of spatio-temporal anchors. Aptly, the two paintings shift between abstract rendering and representational focus; they depict their eponymous settings whilst simultaneously drifting into imaginary lands.

    Yet the haze surrounding Beaver Lake is not due exclusively to Anderson’s pictorial and stylistic inclinations. It draws from his unique perspective on topography, as well as his desire to conceive a loose, homogeneous unity of space. In Jennifer Higgie’s words, ‘[Anderson’s] source material is simply a starting point; it’s equally important for him to allow the experiences and locations referenced in his pictures to collide and interact – history, after all, is not clear cut, and neither is the act of remembering’ (Jennifer Higgie, ‘Another word for feeling’, Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, exh. cat., Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2013, p. 12). Born in the Midlands to first-generation Jamaican immigrants, Anderson here seems to fuse his visions of Canadian shores and heated Jamaican hues to create an entirely new, cross-cultural repertoire supported by an imagination bleeding beyond borders. The result is both evocative and elusive, familiar and strange.

    Doubtlessly, Anderson’s thematic proclivity, based on his belief that many first and second-generation migrants feel permanently displaced, was visually informed by his professor Peter Doig’s fascination with geographic dislocation, as well as his tendency to employ the visual, even physical materialisation of memory. Having studied under the Scottish painter when he was a student at the Royal College of Art – and thus during the time the present work was conceived – Anderson learnt from Doig's pictorial methods of mirroring and displacement, which in turn allowed his painterly reproductions of photographs to bear otherworldly, metaphoric qualities. Both painters had connections to Canada and the Caribbean; yet whilst Doig had spent parts of his childhood between the two, Anderson was, at this stage, still a stranger to both. ‘Anderson told me that despite the biographical elements in his work, he feels it’s vital to create a distance from the original photographs in order to uncover what he describes as “something inherent in the picture”’, explained Higgie (Jennifer Higgie, ‘Another word for feeling’, Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, exh. cat., Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2013, pp. 11-12). Similarly, Doig’s landscapes linger on faded memories, and exude a powerful sense of ambivalence that transcends reality.

    With its striking colour palette and its subtle invocation of human memory, Beaver Lake achieves an ‘unlikely combination of being investigations into colour, shape and form, and unsentimental explorations of cultural and socially charged spaces’ (Eddie Chambers, ‘Double Consciousness’, Hurvin Anderson: reporting back, exh. cat., Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2013, p. 71). As one of Anderson's most personal and compelling compositions, the present work signals the virtue of his painterly skill at the dawn of his artistic practice.

Ο ◆11

Property from an Important Private Collection

Beaver Lake

oil on canvas
256 x 189 cm (100 3/4 x 74 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1998.

Estimate
£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £2,175,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
othornton@phillips.com

 

Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060
rwiden@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019