David Hepher, well-known for his architecturally-inspired works depicting residential inner city tower blocks, recently stated that he actually considered himself to be a landscape painter. This was not in the traditional sense of the word, but in the way that he sets out to capture the scene around him, whether it is a raw cityscape, or in the depths of the French countryside. To showcase these parallels, captured in full scale works often as huge diptychs and triptychs, Flowers gallery will offer a fascinating insight into both, in a special exhibition entitled: Town & Country at their Kingsland Road gallery from 21st February- 29th March, 2014.
What makes the works so absorbing is that Hepher treats his rural depictions in the same way as he encapsulates the city, incorporating materials from the surroundings into his work. This includes concrete in his urban works and earth in his rural pieces, which when used alongside graffiti motifs, allows the viewer to experience differing levels of reality and in turn have unique encounters with his works.
In a hint to Brutalism, Hepher chooses residential tower blocks as his subjects. These buildings have a 'pulse', they are filled with people who live there and as their lives progress, so does the building. It begins to decay and becomes run down and weathered by its utilitarian function. The buildings that feature in these urban works lead the viewer to investigate, to question the lives of the people within the buildings, as well as the context of the building and its position. Juxtaposed with the realism within his works, pattern and form are elaborated in rows of squares, raw edges and blanked out or non-painted windows. This leads us to suspend disbelief and appreciate the work in its entirety and away from any subject matter, or any social comment. There is a sense of being within or directly outside the subject of the work, due to the textural aspect of the concrete mixed with paint and the flashes of matt colour, emulating decay and the movement of time. Standing in the midst of the work one appreciates a sense of beauty amongst function, a sense of survival and endurance - all themes that Hepher presents purely for the onlooker's visual experience, rather than as social commentary or opinion.
Hepher's landscapes created from his time spent in the South West of France are far from the simple landscapes that one would imagine. As with Hepher's urban works, these paintings capture the essence of the location, the earth mixed with paint offers the same textural experience as the tower blocks, but instigates a calm, natural aspect to this very different location. The narrative is almost the same, the subtext instigating a heightened awareness of passing time and history and of endurance and resistance; seen in the weathered fields, hills and trees. The choice of colours emits a sense of a tranquil rhythm, against the movement seen and felt in his urban works. This, combined with the offsetting of realism, demonstrated in the graffiti at the edges of such picturesque works, creates the multiple layers of reality we experience in his urban works. While Hepher's artworks are a purely visual experience, they fully engage the viewer, as his unique insights open up personal observances and questions on how we live and what reality is for us.
Referring to David Hepher and his works, the Architect Jim Tanner said: "In years to come no social study of life in South London, in the late 20th and early 21st century will be complete without reference to the work of this remarkable, talented painter."
David Hepher was born in Surrey in 1935. He studied at Camberwell School of Art and the Slade. In the 70s he exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Serpentine and the Whitechapel and in important group exhibitions internationally. Flowers Gallery has been associated with his work since Angela Flowers opened her first gallery in 1970 and has exhibited his work at home and abroad ever since. Hepher 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 to be found in a number of important Public Collections including,Tate Gallery, London, Museum of London, The Arts Council, British Council, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam andthe Victoria and Albert Museum in London.