Spencer Finch Explores Margate’s Coastal Light In New Turner Contemporary Exhibition

American Artist Spencer Finch’s first solo exhibition in an English public gallery in over 5 years brings together new and recent works by the artist, all of which reflect on the changing coastal light of Margate and other sites. The exhibition will be accompanied by a group of JMW Turner’s watercolours selected by Finch from the Tate collection.

Spencer Finch (born 1962, New Haven, CT), commissioned to produce an installation for New York’s High Line in 2009 and selected by Crossrail to create a permanent monumental work for Paddington Station, is known for his poetic artworks that distil his observations and experience of the world into glowing installations of light and colour. Finch, who works in a range of media, is particularly interested in the specificities of light, colour, memory and perception and his works are often made in response to an artistically or historically charged time and place such as a shadow falling in Monet’s garden at Giverny, or the colours in a series of Turner paintings.  Other works deal with more personal spaces and experiences, seeking to capture the colours of places and objects in his dreams over an extended period of time or the exact colour and intensity of sunlight falling on the wall of his New York studio.

Conceived for Turner Contemporary’s North Gallery, the exhibition includes a large-scale suspended ‘cloud’ sculpture, made from simple translucent filters that subtly alter its transparency and opacity as the natural light in the space changes throughout the day, recreating the effect of a passing cloud.Back to Kansas (2013) replicates colours from scenes in The Wizard of Oz in a grid of painted squares, scaled proportionally using the original aspect ratio in which the famous movie was projected. As daylight fades, the colours gradually evaporate, reversing the original film’s transition from black and white to Technicolor in a work that encourages slow, focused looking and gives a knowing nod to twentieth-century abstraction. The exhibition also presents new work by the artist, including a brightly coloured fluorescent light sculpture, made in response to the ever-present horizon line in Margate, and a group of drawings in an ongoing series recreating the changing natural light on the artist’s studio wall over time.

Among the group of seven works on paper by JMW Turner, which have been selected by Spencer Finch to accompany his exhibition, is the late watercolour sketch A Wreck (possibly related to ‘Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End’), 1834-40, which the artist keeps a postcard of in his New York studio.  Finch is particularly interested in the dynamic between abstraction and representation in these works, which are primarily views of Margate and the Kent coast.

Spencer was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1962 and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.  He studied comparative literature at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York and undertook an MFA in sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design. Finch’s solo exhibitions include Back to Kansas part of SFMOMA’ s Project Los Altos (2013), Indianapolis Museum of Art (2013), the Art Institute of Chicago (2011), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Indiana (2007) and Portikus, Frankurt am Main (2003). He participated in the Folkestone Triennial in 2011 and the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009.