David Batchelor: I-Cons and Ex-Cons

25 March - 11 June 2023

Batchelor’s concrete poems return us to our primal instinct to play, conjuring a cacophony of voices, and connections; a breathless story told by a child with a run of conjunctions instead of full stops: and then, and then, and then. […] And it is this spirit of invention, of free association, which makes the energy of these works so infectious and their final form so covetable. (Eleanor Nairne, 2022)

Kestle Barton is excited to open this 2023 season with an exhibition of recent work by London-based artist, David Batchelor, entitled I-Cons and Ex-Cons (March 25 – June 11). This collection of work brings colour to the foreground in playful and imaginative forms.

Since 2011, Batchelor has been developing a wide range of sculptures collectively titled Concretos.

The first of these was inspired by seeing a low cement wall embedded with shards of coloured glass in Sicily. Since then, Batchelor has been making works in which brightly coloured objects – glass fragments, plastic off-cuts, paint tin lids, studio detritus and found objects of one kind or another – are set into a simple rectangular concrete base.

The works began as small, improvised, shelf-based sculptures, and over the last decade have expanded and grown into free-standing structures, some over three metres tall.

The title I-Cons and Ex-Cons refers to studio shorthand for the larger and more recent works in the series: the Inter-Concretos and the Extra-Concretos. A group of these works will be placed throughout the gallery at Kestle Barton.

In addition a new work made from hundreds of off-cuts from earlier Perspex sculptures but without a concrete base – a Non-Con – will be shown in front of one of the gallery windows, so that the coloured fragments are illuminated from behind and glow like an improvised stained glass window.

Batchelor has been making colour-based works in a variety of media for over three decades. Since the early 1990s, his sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, installations and animations have all aimed to draw attention to aspects of colour, and urban colour in particular. Rather than being an aspect of some other concern, in these works colour is its own presence, the centre and subject of the work.

In Chromophobia (Reaktion Books, 2000), Batchelor argued that, in the West, since antiquity, vivid colour has often been treated as inessential or cosmetic, and regarded as feminine or oriental, infantile, narcotic or kitsch. In all his work Batchelor aims to disturb this assumption, and to draw attention to an area of experience that is both entirely familiar and deeply strange.

Image: David Batchelor
Inter-Concreto 08
Found painted timber, plexiglass and concrete
1050 x 610 x 60 mm

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David Batchelor

David Batchelor is an artist and writer based in London. He was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1955. He studied Fine Art at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham (1975-78), and Cultural Theory at Birmingham University (1978-80).

For thirty years Batchelor has been concerned with the experience of colour within a modern urban environment, and with historical conceptions of colour within Western culture. His work comprises sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, photography and animation. He has exhibited widely in the UK, continental Europe, the Americas and, more recently, the Middle East and Asia. Batchelor has also written a number of books and essays on colour theory, including Chromophobia (2000).

In 2022 Batchelor presented his first large-scale survey exhibition at Compton Verney Museum in Warwickshire. Titled Colour Is, and comprising nearly 200 works, the show included his earliest surviving black and white works from the 1980s through a wide range of his colour-based works from the 1990s to the present. It concluded with a body of large- and small-scale abstractions made in concentrated periods during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020-21. A new book, Concretos, which focusses on a range of sculptures with concrete bases, was published to coincide with the exhibition.

Other recent exhibitions include: My Own Private Bauhaus, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (2019), Chromatology, Ab-Anbar Gallery, Tehran (2017); Monochrome Archive 1997-2015, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Flatlands, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh and Spike Island, Bristol (2013-14); Light Show (2013-16), Hayward Gallery, London, MAC Sydney, Sharjah Art Foundation and MAC Santiago; Chromophilia: 1995-2010, Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro (2010); Color Chart, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008) and Tate Liverpool (2009); Extreme Abstraction, Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2005); the Biennial de Santiago, Chile (2005); Shiny Dirty, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2004); the 26th Bienal De São Paulo (2004);  Sodium and Asphalt, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2003); and Days Like These: Tate Britain Triennial of Contemporary Art, Tate Britain, London (2003).

Since the early 2000s Batchelor has received a number of commissions to make works in the public realm, some of which were temporary and some are permanent. These include: Homage to Dr. Mirabilis (Wesgate, Oxford, 2018); Sixty Minute Spectrum (Hayward Gallery, London, 2017); Chromorama, (Broadgate Estates, London, 2015); 19-20-21, (Lyric Theatre, London, 2014); Plato’s Disco (Whitworth Galleries, Manchester, 2014); Chromolocomotion (St Pancras International, London, 2014); Spectrum on the Hill (Hannan the Hill, Seoul); Spectrum of 1st. Street (NoMA, Washington DC); Hong Kong Fesdella (British Council, Hong Kong, 2010), Ten Silhouettes (Gloucester Road underground station, 2005); and Evergreen (More London, 2003).

Chromophobia, Batchelor’s book on colour and the fear of colour in the West, was published by Reaktion Books, London (2000), and is now available in ten languages. His more recent book, The Luminous and the Grey (2014), is also published by Reaktion. Colour (2008), an anthology of writings on colour from 1850 to the present, edited by Batchelor, is published by Whitechapel, London and MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. His book of photographs, Found Monochromes: vol.1, nos.1-250 (2010), is published by Ridinghouse, London; his suite of drawings, The October Colouring-In Book (2015), is published by Common-Editions, London. Concretos (2022) is published by Anomie, London.

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