Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings – A Multifaceted Trip Through Identity and Culture

Hurvin Anderson

Hurvin Anderson’s latest exhibition, “Salon Paintings,” at Hastings Contemporary, immerses visitors in a vibrant exploration of identity, memory, and cultural heritage. Born in Birmingham in 1965, Anderson, a prominent British artist, draws on his Jamaican heritage and multicultural upbringing to create a visual narrative that resonates deeply with the complexities of contemporary painting.

The exhibition’s focal point is Anderson’s outstanding Barbershop series, a collection that spans almost two decades, offering a comprehensive journey through the evolution of his practice. The artist’s initial encounter with a local barbershop in 2006 inspired him to delve into the intimate spaces that serve as cultural touchstones for the Caribbean diaspora. His paintings capture the essence of these salons, exploring the interplay between tradition and modernity, memory and displacement.

Hurvin Anderson "Is it OK to be Black?" (2016) Photo: Artlyst 2023
Hurvin Anderson “Is it OK to be Black?” (2016) Photo: Artlyst 2023

“Salon Paintings” showcases Anderson’s mastery in combining realism with abstraction, creating a distinctive visual language that breathes life into the canvas. The exhibition not only presents the evolution of the Barbershop series but also includes some of Anderson’s more politically charged works such as, “Is it OK to be Black?” (2016), a poignant piece within the show that incorporates depictions of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, both role models of the artist while growing up.

The artist’s creative process unfolds throughout the exhibition, with sketches, drawings, and studies providing a tangible sense of the meticulous craftsmanship behind each painting. Seeing these paintings together I discovered an unexpected connection between the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and the American artist Richard Deibenkorn both of these artists were influences on Anderson’s creative development. The display offers a rare glimpse into Anderson’s artistic journey, from the first barbershop scene in 2006 to the latest large-scale works initiated in 2023. Figures now inhabit the later works.

As viewers navigate the gallery space, the vibrant colours and aesthetics of the salons become a conduit for connections. Anderson cleverly intertwines the cultural and the personal, using the salon as a point of intersection between individual narratives and collective memory.

Hurvin Anderson 'Shear Cut 2023
Hurvin Anderson ‘Shear Cut 2023

“Salon Paintings” invites visitors to meditate on the enduring significance of interior spaces, like the Barbershops with their infinite mirror reflections. The exhibition, supported by Richard and Debbi Burston, Clore Wyndham, Thomas Dane Gallery, and Michael Werner Gallery, resonates as a testament to Anderson’s impact on contemporary art.

A new book accompanying the exhibition and edited by Eleanor Clayton and Isabella Maidment enriches the experience, providing deeper insights into Anderson’s artistic philosophy.

Hurvin Anderson is a distinguished British artist, born in Birmingham on 2 May 1965. He is renowned for his distinctive approach to painting; Anderson has become a significant figure in the contemporary art world, exploring themes of identity, memory, and cultural heritage through his work.

Anderson’s early life experiences as a child of Jamaican immigrants influenced his artistic perspective. Growing up in Birmingham, a city with a diverse cultural landscape, provided him with a unique lens through which to view the complexities of multiculturalism and its impact on individual and collective identity.

The artist pursued formal education at the Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. During this period, he honed his skills and developed a unique visual language that would later become a hallmark of his artistic practice—his formative years as an artist coincided with a broader reconsideration of painting in the contemporary art scene.

Anderson gained prominence for his distinctive approach to figurative painting, which often combines realism with abstraction. His works are characterised by a vibrant use of colour, intricate brushwork, and a nuanced exploration of spaces that evoke a sense of familiarity and displacement. Themes of cultural hybridity and the intersection of British and Caribbean influences are recurrent motifs in his oeuvre.

Anderson has exhibited extensively throughout his career, showcasing his works globally in solo and group exhibitions. His contributions to the art world have not gone unnoticed, and he has received prestigious accolades, including being nominated for the Turner Prize in 2017.

Hurvin Anderson’s art invites viewers to contemplate the complexities of identity, memory, and the spaces we inhabit. His paintings are visually compelling and serve as a rich tapestry of narratives exploring multicultural existence’s intricacies. Anderson’s continued dedication to pushing the boundaries of contemporary painting reinforces his standing as a significant and influential artist.

Words/Photos Paul Carter Robinson © Artlyst 2023

Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings 18 November 2023 – 3 March 2024 Hastings Contemporary 

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