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Compton Verney hosts the first large-scale survey of David Batchelor's career
Installation view, David Batchelor: Colour Is at Compton Verney. Photography by Jamie Woodley.

COMPTON VERNEY.- Throughout 2022, Compton Verney is exploring, examining and enjoying artists’ use of colour. With David Batchelor: Colour Is, the Warwickshire art gallery is hosting the first large-scale survey of the Scottish artist and writer’s work spanning four decades.

Throughout his career, David Batchelor (b.1955) has been concerned, predominantly, with colour. His work reflects both a delight in the myriad hues of the modern urban environment and an inquiry into the nature of our rapidly changing surroundings. Batchelor works in a variety of media, including sculpture, installations, drawing, painting, photography and animation. He has also written a number of books, including Chromophobia (2000), which looks at changing Western attitudes to colour.

Colour Is invites visitors to explore galleries filled with a diverse range of artworks - nearly 200 in all - from across Batchelor’s career. In Compton Verney’s largest space, Gallery Y, Colour Charts - a suite of paintings made with household paints from the 2010s – are shown together with Dog Days (2005-06), seven sculptures made from large balls of coloured electrical flex. An ongoing group of sculptures -the Concreto series - also begun in the 2010s, in which brightly coloured objects are embedded in blocks of raw concrete - will be exhibited throughout the space. These are shown together with Covid Variations – paintings and collages made during the pandemic – and a recently completed tapestry that was woven in Mexico.

In another suite of galleries visitors will encounter Batchelor’s earliest ‘pre-colour’ drawings, collages and paintings from the 1980s. Made entirely in black, white and grey, these works are being publicly exhibited for the first time. These give way to Batchelor’s early experiments in combining vivid colour with found objects, including I Love King’s Cross and King’s Cross Loves Me 5, on loan from the Arts Council Collection. The exhibition includes a number of Batchelor’s illuminated works, including Magic Hour (2004-07). At nearly three metres high and over two metres wide, this installation is composed of found commercial lightboxes that face the gallery wall and produce an unearthly halo of colour around a dark industrial-looking construction.

The exhibition culminates with an ongoing artwork that gives the show its title - a glowing animation, in which numerous statements that begin with the words ‘Colour is…’ revolve in a continuously changing colour-saturated animation. Each sentence is a pronouncement on colour made by a leading artist, writer or philosopher; including the likes of Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Jacques Derrida, Louise Bourgeois and Roland Barthes.

The transformation of everyday objects into works of art has become a key element of Batchelor’s artistic practice, and this is demonstrated throughout the exhibition. Many works incorporate objects discarded on London streets, or waste from the studio. Piles of electrical flex, some old steel mesh, abandoned paint pot lids and offcuts of coloured plastic – all have the potential to become repurposed as vibrant works of art.

The exhibition is punctuated by specially built display tables showcasing a range of Batchelor’s sketchbooks and sources of inspiration, evoking the atmosphere of his treasure trove studio and giving unique insights into his creative process.

Julie Finch, Director CEO of Compton Verney says: “David Batchelor: Colour Is will be the centrepiece of Compton Verney’s Summer of Colour, a season of exhibitions, interventions and creative events exploring the ways in which people experience colour.

“David has an established reputation for his writing and teaching, so Colour Is will appeal to students on creative courses in our region and beyond, as well as art teachers in local schools and colleges.

“Contemporary art lovers will enjoy either discovering David’s work for the first time or seeing such a treasure trove of work from across four decades brought together in one exhibition, including previously unseen work. The playful nature and aesthetic appeal of David’s output will make the exhibition popular with families.”

The exhibition’s co-curators Oli McCall and Penny Sexton, believe the exhibition will have broad appeal:

“This is the most comprehensive exhibition of David Batchelor’s work to date, and as such it will give visitors the chance to see an array of work including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, installation, animation and tapestry, made across four decades. It is really exciting to be able to show a number of new works, made during the pandemic, for the first time, alongside Batchelor’s earliest experimentations with vivid colour and a selection of sketchbooks and source material which will give visitors unprecedented insight into his evolution as an artist. The exhibition promises to immerse visitors in Batchelor’s colourful world.”

David Batchelor says: “This is the first opportunity I have had to exhibit the full range of my colour-based work, which now spans over thirty years,” explains David Batchelor.

“It is also the first time I have shown examples of work I made in the 1980s, before colour entered my studio. The experience of looking back at over forty years of drawings, collages, painting and sculptures, is a strange one: often surprising, sometimes rewarding, and occasionally embarrassing.”

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