Diaspora-Artists logo

Denzil Forrester: From Trench Town to Porthtowan - catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2018
Published by: Jackson Foundation
Year published: 2018
Number of pages: 48
ISBN: 978-0-9576968-9-1

image of Denzil Forrester: From Trench Town to Porthtowan - catalogue

Jackson Foundation is a private gallery initiative developed by artist Kurt Jackson, located in St Just, Cornwall. It was the venue for a retrospective exhibition by Denzil Forrester, From Trench Town to Porthtowan. The exhibition took place May 26 - June 23 2018. The exhibition came with this attractive catalogue. The catalogue was somewhat light on text, much of its written content being a short preface by Kurt Jackson, and a short Foreword by Peter Doig. Doig’s text began,

I first saw Denzil’s paintings at his Royal College of Art degree show in 1983. It was thrilling and unusual to see depictions of East London’s ‘Blues’ and Dub clubs and clubbers painted in those dynamic, large scale works. I was humbled and in awe of the ambition and realness of the vital, imposing canvases.

It was an exciting time for painting and to be a painting student - London had hosted important exhibitions of Max Beckmann and Phillip Guston and the huge survey show at the Royal Academy in 1981 A New Spirit in Painting, introduced us to a new wave of German and American artists working mostly in a figurative expressionist tradition. Denzil’s work stood out however because it portrayed a world and scene that was scarecly pictured in the fine arts… one that was known to me through music and one that captured the impact that artists such as Linton Kwesi Johnson weere having on the times.” [ellipsis in original]

Jackson’s preface, which was simply titled ‘Denzil’, opened with, “Once upon a time, I was there in those halls in London; those dark loud rooms with subdued smoky lighting and the floor-board-reverberating bass underlying everything everything. Hazy figures moving to the rhythms in the dim light of the 70s and 80s - big hatted figures in groups, just discernable. Laughter and chat, patois and reggae; reggae, dub, the bass and no I didn’t really draw it.”

The catalogue was lavishly and extensively illustrated with reproductions (including details) of work by Forrrster, from the 1970s onwards. Fascinatingly, one of the two reproductions of work from the 1970s was a landscape titled St Just, an oil on board, 94 x 63 cm work dating from 1979. This, Forrester demonstrated longstanding associations with the county of Cornwall. Not only that, but he demonstrated a verifiable connection to St Just, the small Cornish town in with the Jackson Foundation ewas now located.

Contents as follows:

‘Denzil’ - Kurt Jackson
Foreword - Peter Doig
Drawings & etchings
the Jackson Foundation - note
Invited Artists at the Jackson Foundation - note

The catalogue was bookended by photographs of Forrrester in his studio. The first, at the front of the catalogue, was an uncredited black and white photograph of the young artist as a young man, with full head of hair, in relaxed mood, working in his studio. The photograph towards the back of the catalogue was a double page colour portrait (again, uncredited) of Forrrester, in much more recent times, about to play a vinyl reggae record in his studio.

The catalogue was punctuated with two poems by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Dread Beat an Blood, and Reggae Sounds.

The eponymous painting to which the exhibition gave its name was referenced by Forrester in an invaluable piece in the Guardian online, about the artist’s exhibition at the Jackson Foundation [https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/12/denzil-forrester-retrospective-interview]. The journalist responsible for the feature, Joshua Surtees, asked,  ”The show’s title piece shows a Rastafarian being handcuffed on a beach. What’s it about?”, Forrester answered, “I started painting Porthtowan beach [in Cornwall] and I said: “I’m going to draw black people on the beach.” But it was too calm, it needed a punch, so I used one of my older paintings Three Wicked Men, which Peter Doig bought for the Tate, to give it a kick up the arse. It was like superimposing something from London on to a beach in Cornwall. I painted Three Wicked Men in 1982 – the title was a reggae record at the time about a businessman, a policeman and a politician.”

This was the first substantial publication of Forrester’s work for a number of years. This copy came with a price list of works in the exhibition, for sale


Related people

»  Peter Doig

Born, 1962 in Edinburgh

»  Denzil Forrester

Born, 1956 in Grenada

»  LKJ (Linton Kwesi Johnson)

Born, 1952 in Jamaica

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Jackson Foundation

St Just Cornwall, United Kingdom