Durrington Towers II 2007
Over thirty years ago,David Hephermade a painting of the
Durrington Tower high rise on the Wandsworth Road Estate. Exhibited
at the Hayward Gallery in 1975, the painting marked the beginning
of Hepher's sustained exploration of the monolithic and sculptural
forms of South London's twentieth century skyline. Recently he has
revisited the site - now emptied of the idealistic impulse from
which it sprang - anxious to paint its soaring modernist structures
before they are reconditioned or else demolished.
This November, Hepher will be showing a number of paintings, two
epic triptychs and a diptych among them, based on the Estate and
its complex history. These works speak in a heterogeneous visual
language, in which the literalism of medium (as with earlier works,
they are painted on a base of shuttered concrete and/or enlarged
photographic images) vies with the hyperrealism of multi-layered
text and image. The Mondrianesque grids of the buildings are
interrupted by vignettes of landscape torn from another aesthetic
economy; streaks of paint mark their architectural anatomies like
abstract scars; tags of graffiti encode critical interventions made
by human hand.
For Hepher, the dialogue between the 'distance' of the
photographic image and the physical tactility of paint and
brushstroke is crucial to the presence of these works. As an
artist, he obsessively exploits the interplay between
representation and realisation. By incorporating the real materials
of architecture into his paintings, he seeks not merely to
represent the tower blocks, but to take over their very substance.
The temptation to read the picture plane, with its lucid geometry
and fidelity to the line, as an exercise in abstraction, dissolves
at the moment the painting's swarming detail tears into focus. The
subtle disorder within order that is the essence of Hepher's
paintings is perpetually at work to reveal the hidden lives behind
the concrete screens.
David Hepher studied at Camberwell School of Art and Slade
School of Art, where he later became Professor and Head of
Undergraduate Painting. He has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally.