David Hepher: Concrete Elegy

Flowers Gallery

Oct. 20, 2024 - Dec. 10, 2016

529 West 20th Street
New York, 10011
(212) 439-1700


“I was drawn to painting tower blocks not because I had any personal message to say, but because I felt that it was a striking element of the landscape. It’s like Constable had the Stour Valley and Turner had the Medway, and I have Camberwell. This is what landscape painters do – they keep going back to familiar subjects and views and finding new inspiration in them. Cézanne used to say that he could always paint the Mont Saint Victoire. By moving his feet a few inches, he would find a new view. By changing his position, only slightly, he would find another painting.” – David Hepher

Flowers Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by British artist David Hepher, the artist’s first solo presentation in the United States. For forty years British artist David Hepher has focused his singular vision on the domestic high-rises of South London, through which he has channelled the diverse currents that have swept the international world of contemporary art. Finding his subject in the expansive social housing estates built throughout the 1960s and 70s, Hepher has captured the formal beauty of their grid-like structures as well as the physical and emotional traces of their inhabitants.
The paintings in the present exhibition span the past two decades. In paintings of the 2000’s such as Winterreise, the austere realist style of Hepher’s early work was replaced by an increased engagement with the physical nature of the subject matter, and appropriation of architectural elements such as concrete and spray paint within his mixed media paintings. Works such as Durrington Towers II have been prepared with a brutal shuttered concrete ground, which replicates the builder’s application of textured facades, and pushes the paintings to the brink of abstraction. The surface is overlaid with the spraycan scrawls and slogans of found graffiti, alongside Hepher’s own marks and art historical motifs, softening the hard-edged geometric structures with the feathered curves of gestural expression.

A recent series of smaller works, known collectively as ‘pavement horizons’, marks a distinct shift in viewpoint and scale. Honing in on the juncture at which the buildings rise from the ground, each painting portrays a life-size frontal view of a section of concrete wall and the right angle it forms with the pavement, presenting an intimate record of an ordinarily overlooked aspect of the landscape. While the concrete draws the eye to the surface, they can also conjure the impression of a sublime landscape, an illusion upheld by evocative titles such as Cloudburst and The Monk by the Sea, the latter named after a work by German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich. In contrast to the monumentality of the towers, their human scale places the viewer in close physical proximity to the subject, inviting intimate reflection on the quiet aesthetic qualities of these frequently bypassed details of modern life.

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