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Flat Top, 2008 (photo: Hugh Kelly)

Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings at Hastings Contemporary

HOT’s Judy Parkinson went to Hastings Contemporary to look at a major review of Hurvin Anderson’s paintings and drawings, and some of his latest work.

Salon Paintings features selected works from Hurvin Anderson’s celebrated Barbershop series, which depict the interiors of traditional barbershops and evoke a profound sense of history, memory and place.

Hurvin Anderson was born to Jamaican parents in Birmingham in 1965. He studied at the Wimbledon School of Art and Royal College of Art and his work is represented in public collections in the USA, Canada, Europe and the UK, including Tate Britain. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2017. His practice touches upon his Caribbean heritage, as well as referencing wider art history.

Dating back to classical antiquity barbershops have been places not just for haircuts, but for social interaction, debate and discussion of hot topics of the day.  Barbers have been the holders of these stories; mentors, role models and father figures. For the black community barbershops have long been spaces for men to gather, converse and engage in activism and grassroots organisation. It was in a Harlem barbershop that civil rights campaigner Stokely Carmichael first became involved in black activism.

One of Anderson’s most political works is on display: ‘Is it OK to be Black?’ (2016), which includes depictions of three of the most significant figures in the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. The title refers to a mis-hearing of the classic barber’s question as he holds up a mirror behind the customer, “Is it OK at the back?”

Anderson first painted a barbershop scene in 2006 after visiting a local Birmingham barbershop. It soon became a recurring theme in his paintings, symbolising enterprise, affirmation and community for many Afro-Caribbeans.

Afrosheen (2009)

His work pays homage to this cultural history and explores themes of memory, identity and nationhood. “When I first saw the space, it was actually more about the mirrors,” he explained. “I walked in. It was quite still. Guys were waiting. People were cutting hair. Then you’d turn around 90 degrees and there’s two mirrors behind you. It’s an odd atmosphere to work in, to have so much reflection, to see yourself constantly.”

Anderson photographed the salon as reference for his series of brightly coloured, Mondrian-like semi-abstract works layered up with collage and paint. The works are part still life with arrangements of barbershop paraphernalia: the distinctive chairs, bottles of products, hairdryers, huge mirrors, strip lights and posters, and part perspective views with hall of mirrors vanishing points.

The images he finds on barbershop walls also fascinate him: “Hairstyles, of course, but also football teams, boxers, judo grapplers, newspaper articles. It gives another twist somehow.”

This exhibition is the most comprehensive presentation of the Barbershop series to date; from the first painting and initial studio drawings made in 2006 to a new large-scale drawing and a painting begun in 2022, which are the largest and final works in the series. The exhibition also includes a display of Anderson’s sketches, drawings and studies that give a tangible sense of his creative process.

Miss Jamaica, 2021 (photo: Ben Westoby)

It’s not all about men’s haircuts. Miss Jamaica appears on a postcard shaded by palm fronds at the beach in a large work in acrylic on paper that harks back to when the Miss World contest was held in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1963.

“The barbershop is a subject that I have returned to throughout my career, as a site that was a point of connection to Caribbean culture,” said Anderson. “In repeating the image, deconstructing it and putting it back together again, the series has also become a meditative exploration of painting itself.”

Liz Gilmore, director of Hastings Contemporary, said: “Turner Prize-nominated artist Hurvin Anderson is one of the most prominent British painters working today and a great influence on the current generation of artists. The exhibition reflects our passion and commitment to showcasing the best of British art, both historic and contemporary. We are grateful to Hurvin for his generous insights and thinking in the development of this touring exhibition.”


Salon Paintings: 18 November 2023-3 March 2024, Hastings Contemporary, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings TN34 3DW. Wednesday to Sunday and bank holidays, 11am to 5pm (last entry 4.40pm). Open until 8.30pm on Thursday 30 November 2023.

A new book, edited by Eleanor Clayton and Isabella Maidment and published by The Hepworth Wakefield, will accompany the exhibition.

Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings is organised by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with Hastings Contemporary and Kistefos Museum, Norway. Prior to its arrival at Hastings Contemporary from 18 November, the exhibition opened at The Hepworth Wakefield on 26 May 2023 and will next travel to Kistefos in Norway (April – October 2024).

All images © Hurvin Anderson. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery.

Studio Drawing 9, 2012 (photo: Richard Ivey)

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Posted 10:27 Monday, Nov 20, 2023 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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