For forty years British artist David Hepher has centred his work on a single subject: the urban landscapes of south London. Exploring the scale and ‘austere grandeur’ of the expansive modern social housing estates built in the 1960s and 70s, Hepher was attracted to the formal beauty of their grid-like structures and by the physical and emotional traces of their many inhabitants. His multivalent work has both celebrated and mourned modernism in modes that are futuristic and nostalgic, utopian and entropic.
On a monumental scale and often across multiple panels, Hepher replicates a builder’s application of textured and deteriorated facades, pushing the paintings to the brink of abstraction. Pours of paint, drips. staining and graffiti disrupt the ordered geometry of the structures and reflect increasing physical and social changes of the buildings themselves.
This large triptych presents a horizontal slice of the tower block facade from a frontal perspective. By focusing on a reduced area of the building, Hepher has replaced the overpowering effect of the tall building with a closer, more immersive view. As he has described, “you get the sense you’re actually standing there in front of a block itself.”
Born in Surrey, Hepher studied at Camberwell School of Art and the Slade. He was a senior lecturer in painting at Chelsea School of Art from 1981 - 1990 and subsequently became professor and head of Undergraduate Painting at the Slade. His work is in public collections including the Tate, the Museum of London, The Arts Council, British Council, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Acrylic, oil, spray paint and concrete on canvas triptych