Des Lawrence

Christopher Wray, 2016

Enamel on Aluminum

50 × 56 cm


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Artwork
Description

Futuristic objects protrude from a green backdrop. Like the propellers of a vast liner, their curved metal fins stand to attention surrounding the centre in a regimented ring. On closer inspection, however, these rotors reveal themselves to be wall-mounted lamps. Gleaming, modern, intricately designed and shaped, their retro-futurism is reminiscent of the era when Christopher Wray first opened his lighting boutique on the King’s Road, Chelsea in 1964.

Wray’s recent death is the subject of Lawrence’s 2016 painting Christopher Wray. The artist’s varied practice draws as its inspiration and prime motivation current newspaper obituaries. Lawrence approaches his paintings as a parallel memorial to these newspaper columns. He has spoken of his desire to aim for a neutral and repetitive aesthetic, one with as limited freedom of expression as possible. However, his images also open the floodgates to a barrage of unexpected stories and emotions, and behind-the-scenes Lawrence plays off this associative power, using an inverse of this in his making process.

Since the emergence of the internet search engine, Lawrence has abandoned fruitless searches in dusty archives, in preference of a digital quest where a single train of thought can throw up multiple visual and verbal parallels. Such a process results in more enigmatic imagery than would illustrate a newspaper obituary. These lamps for example, look more like they have come from an online catalogue – pristine, gleaming, inviting the customer to buy. Their perfect crystalline form is an unexpected companion to a meditation on death, and the juxtaposition is haunting in its banality.

About
the artist


Des Lawrence (b. 1970) studied at Glasgow School of Art and Goldsmiths College. Selected shows include 
The London Open at the Whitechapel Gallery, London and REALLY?, Curated by Beth Rudin deWoody at the Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. Lawrence was awarded the British School in Rome’s Abbey Scholarship in 2005. He lives and works in London.

Lawrence’s practice is varied, comprising of painting, drawing, text and installation. He derives his principal guiding theme from current newspaper obituaries, making his artworks into memorials to the lately departed. The artist conceives of his work as a form of ‘history painting’, a much-neglected in the field of contemporary art. His works have the precision and fidelity of a painting by Delaroche or Gérôme, but none of the frozen aspect. Lawrence’s interest is in the passage of time, in the humanity of loss and the lost, not reviving a cryogenically frozen past for the viewer.

The artist has noted that he is ‘unnaturally fixated upon the microscopic subtlety of a surface’, another parallel to the neo-Grec painters whom Baudelaire characterised as the ‘school of pedants’. However, for Lawrence, this surface does not represent intellectual clarity but rather our myopic tendencies: our desire to see no further than what we expect.

The artist has previously stated his initial desire to be neutral and repetitive in his tributes to the deceased, like the macabre journalism on which his work is based. Indeed, his approach is rather editorial: citing On Kawara’s Date Paintings, Lawrence sought a subject matter that would regenerate itself continuously; endless, like days and months, and years of a calendar. There is no room for freedom of expression in this matter-of-fact encounter with death. However, recently Lawrence has accepted his role as a storyteller, allowing his art to launch an ever-expanding fleet of emotions and ideas. This has been aided and abetted by the increasing role the internet search engine has played in his practice. Lawrence has embraced this new technology’s impact upon the historical record, abandoning fruitless searches in dusty archives for a digital quest where a single train of thought can yield multiple visual and verbal parallels.


Lawrence’s practice is varied, comprising of painting, drawing, text and installation. He derives his principal guiding theme from current newspaper obituaries, making his artworks into memorials to the lately departed. The artist conceives of his work as a form of ‘history painting’, a much-neglected in the field of contemporary art.


Des Lawrence
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition

November 1st, 2018 until
January 6th, 2019
Curated by ARTUNER