Street Music, 1989

Miami Beach 2019
Stephen Friedman Gallery
Oil on linen
124.0 x 185.0 (cm)
48.8 x 72.8 (inch)

The presentation here shows the transition between drawing and painting in Denzil Forrester’s practice by juxtaposing two major paintings alongside key studies from the 1980s. Forrester’s work began in the nightclubs of East London, taking his sketchbook with him and drawing in situ before developing the larger, painterly compositions in the studio the next day. Forrester explains: ‘I just wanted to draw movement, action and expression. I was interested in the energy of the crowd, particular dance movements and what the clubbers wore. In these clubs, city life is recreated in essence: sounds, lights, police sirens, bodies pushing and swaying in a smoke-filled room.’ Each drawing would be dictated by the length of the record, roughly four minutes long, before moving on to the next sketch in sync with the changing soundtrack. Forrester captures the freneticism of these works on paper in his paintings by using angular and hurried brush strokes to emulate the rhythm of the music that reverberated throughout his body. The artist still uses the same drawings from this period to dictate the compositions of his works on canvas today.

Denzil Forrester's (born 1956 in Hermitage, Grenada) vibrant works immortalize the dynamic energy of the London reggae and dub nightclub scene during the early 1980s, a subject that has endured throughout four decades of the artist's practice. Pulsating with rhythm, the artist's expressive depictions of dance halls capture crowds of revelers moving in unison with the beat of the music. Forrester lives and works in Cornwall, United Kingdom.