January 2008, David Humphrey Paintings, at the Keith Talent Gallery

 David Humphrey New Paintings is at Keith Talent in London.

David Humphrey’s New Paintings, at the Keith Talent Gallery
By Susannah Haworth, whitehot magazine, London UK January, 2008

“I think may be this question: how does abstraction and representation mix in my painting? It is a desire to create a kind of narrative of the depiction coming into being.”
-David Humphrey

New Paintings by David Humphrey at the “Last Show at Keith Talent” presented a solo exhibition of New York based artist David Humphrey’s most recent paintings. Humphrey’s career spans over twenty years working in a variety of mediums including sculpture, painting, and drawings.

Humphrey moved to New York in 1976 where he was introduced to the ideas of Cubism and Surrealism in art school. The intricacies of the city intrigued him and he has stayed in New York ever since. Humphrey began showing his work in the city in the 1980’s . Humphrey’s involvement in a band during this time made him become aware of the intersection between entertainment and art in New York at the time. It is in these roots that Humphrey’s style is anchored. Still today, Humphrey’s work includes numerous aspects of contemporary culture and mass media.

Humphrey arrived on the New York scene on the tails of Minimalism, Conceptualism, and Neo Expressionism. Humphrey found his style in Neo Surrealism by revisiting Surrealist imagery and cryptic narratives in painting alongside such artists as George Condo and Kenny Sharff. As a result, Humphrey is aptly deemed a Pop Surrealist.

In the early 1990’s Humphrey worked intensively with family photos as a jumping off point for many of his works and this allowed his imagery and agenda to form from these projects. He also appropriated a drawing he found at a yard sale as a basis to express his own narrative. Whether Humphrey summons his imagery through old family photo albums, a drawing from a yard sale, or through his own sense of the visual world; he often uses a found object as a spring board to create intensely layered images in terms of color, shape, ideas, and discourse. Humphrey says he works through “…synthesizing sources, applying them to deviant narratives, and using second hand material for first person articulations.”

Humphrey’s New Paintings graced the white walls of Keith Talent Gallery in London’s East End from November 16th-December 15th. The show featured six of Humphrey’s newest paintings as well as several works on paper.

David Humphrey New Paintings is at Keith Talent in London.

Humphrey includes natural elements in his work often as an ambiguous landscape of hues for his figures to exist against. He creates a curious contrast between the viewer’s familiarity of a natural environment applied in an alien way to house his layered narratives and solitary figures.

In his work Bird Friends, Humphrey describes creating a visionary landscape with the sun in the center and color unfolding from the central orb, in many ways echoing American Abstraction. In this work he discusses trying to capture the dynamics in the process of thinking and consciousness coming into being through memory and imagination.

Analyzing Humphrey’s compositions is complicated. In Stroller 2, is the figure lonely or on a journey? In Their Weather, are the figures crying out of melancholy or elation? In Swimmer, is the figure forlorn or pensive? The exact significance of these convoluted emotions in Humphrey’s paintings, only Humphrey could definitively clarify. Humphrey says, “This is often what happens with my imagery, it migrates sometimes between states and identities.” It is delving into this world of a complicated and meditative aesthetic that ones own explanation comes alive spurred by Humphrey’s imagery.

In recognizing Humphrey’s style, it is crucial for the paintings to create a dialogue between each other in the exhibition. Humphrey allows meaning to freely flow from his works; resonating a unique sense of energy. Therefore, the orientation of each work in an environment becomes a meaningful interaction between the viewer, an individual painting, and the exhibition.

 David Humphrey New Paintings is at Keith Talent in London.

For Humphrey, the premise for each new painting is drawn from somewhere new and holds personal meaning to him which is apparent through his coherent large splashes of color and form synthesized with recognizable and unfamiliar imagery to create provocative compositions where one’s own perceptions of elements of contemporary culture collide with his. Each viewer is allowed to take their own ideas from Humphrey’s work, just as his own ideas have been found and evolved over time. In fact, the viewer may take something new away from the works each time he or she sees the paintings, but that is part of the fun, and surely Humphrey would have it no other way.

Keith Talent Gallery is reopening in a new space in early February 2008 located closer to Bethenal Green at 262 Cambridge Heath Rd. E2. Check the website for the forthcoming shows in the new space at www.keithtalent.com

Keith Talent Gallery was established in October 2001 in London’s East End, exhibiting young contemporary artists alongside established practitioners. The program varies from solo projects to group shows and encourages invited curatorial projects. Keith Talent Gallery also publishes a quarterly visual arts magazine entitled, Miser & Now, encompassing progressive discussions on contemporary culture through art, music, design and essays. In addition, Keith Talent Gallery organizes an international art fair,Year_08 Art Projects, which runs alongside Frieze and Zoo every October showcasing a host of international galleries.

Keith Talent Gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday 12pm-6pm


Humphrey, David, “David Humphrey: Part 2 of 2” interview on March 3, 2007,
Directed and produced by Robert Knafo, NewArtTV, 2007

Susannah Haworth

Susannah Haworth is from the Washington D.C. area and moved to London to pursue her MA degree in Contemporary Art at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art.  She graduated from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a BA in Art and Art History.  Susannah recently managed the international art fair, Year_07 Art Projects and currently works at the Keith Talent Gallery. 


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