September 30, 2020

“You have to find your niche,” says Denzil Forrester in a short film produced by the Tate. London’s 1980s reggae club scene is the Grenada-born painter’s niche. When his friend, Winston Rose, died in a police van in 1981, he felt propelled to paint the scene. “I started making paintings about him –– I didn’t plan to, but I painted his burial. I was doing a nightclub painting and took out the DJ and put a coffin in instead.” Forrester portrays the joy and energy of reggae –– crowds of bodies gyrating under a technicolour strobe light –– as well as racism and police brutality. “Forrester’s celebration of the vibrancy of Caribbean culture is inseparable from the struggles of assimilation and institutional racism,” writes Osei Bonsu in Frieze. Forrester recently left London –– the backdrop of 40-years of work –– to settle in seaside Cornwall. It was there, that like dub musicians who do different versions of the same records, that he decided to re-imagine previous paintings. “I was looking at the background of Three Wicked Men and decided to change the figures’ surroundings. Porthtowan is a lovely beach in Cornwall, but 90 percent of visitors are white. For From Trench Town to Porthtowan2017 (below) I thought I’d superimpose Three Wicked Men onto that beach and bring the people of London to Cornwall.”


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