Des Lawrence

Sridevi Kapoor, 2019

Enamel on Aluminum

21 × 18 cm


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Artwork
Description

Des Lawrence’s paintings inspired by obituary portraiture are an exploration into the place history painting has in our image-saturated times. For centuries, notable characters and crucial events were recorded through the medium of painting, today smartphones and Google Images supply the need to record and disseminate information. Indeed, after reading an obituary that inspires him, Des Lawrence takes precisely to the Internet, in order to look for the right image to use as his visual source for his enamel on aluminium paintings. At times, he chooses to represent the notable deceased as an object, or a brand that made them famous, while other times, as in the case of Indian actress Sridevi Kapoor, he adopts a more traditional approach.

With its small size, intense burgundy background and bejewelled attire, this portrait looks like a votive icon, rather than an obituary portrait, and indeed, in India she truly was an icon, a ‘box office magnet’ from the 1970s to 1990s. Sridevi, as she was known by the public, embodied the ideal of a screen-goddess, with a combination of beauty and mystery. Off-screen, however, her life was not all the glittery: persecuted by gossip and rumours, she was famously very reclusive. Her recent tragic death – she drowned in a bathtub by accident after losing consciousness while at a family wedding in Dubai – paired with her legendary fame, inspired thousands of fans to attend her funeral in Mumbai. In June 2018, more than 500 women gathered in Bangalore to attend a cosplay event to honour Sridevi and celebrate her life on screen. While she inspired fan devotion posthumously, her death also sparked a serious conversation amongst Bollywood insiders about the pressures actors, and especially women, face to keep young and attractive in such a patriarchally dominated environment.

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

May 22nd, 2019 until
August 31st, 2019
Curated by ARTUNER