David Thorpe, Good People, 2002, Mixed media collage, 75 x 99 cm, Private collection, Courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

David Thorpe, The Axe Laid On The Root, 2004, Mixed media collage, 63 x 90 cm, Private collection, Courtesy Maureen Paley, London / Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe / Berlin / 303 Gallery, New York.

Part Futuristic/Part Nostalgic Buildings Inscribed as Symbiotic Alien Bodies

David Thorpe, Century Guild, 2009, Mixed media collage in painted wooden passepartout, 51,9 x 34,8 cm, Courtesy Maureen Paley, London / Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe / Berlin / 303 Gallery, New York.

David Thorpe, The Defeated Life Restored, 2006-2007 (Detail), Watercolor on paper, Courtesy Zabludowicz Collection.


Kunstverein Hannover e.V.
Sophienstraße 2
+49 (0)511.32 45 94
David Thorpe – Veils and Shelters
or Sparkles of Glory or Perfume
Against the Sulphurous Stinke
of the Snuffe or the Light for Smoak

August 29-November 8, 2009

This solo exhibition by British artist David Thorpe (born 1972) focuses particularly on works made since 2006. Thorpe’s collages, watercolours, sculptures and space-filling installations veer between utopia and apocalypse, between longing and disappointment and are characterised by a meticulous application of traditional craftsmanship techniques as well as an exceptional combination of materials.

An intense study of the writings and significance of the Arts and Crafts Movement is a decisive influence and inspiration for his work which he ties on to in full awareness of the unbridgeable historical distance. Thorpe reveals particular interest in the theories of philosophers and thinkers such as John Ruskin (1819-1900) and William Morris (1834-1894) who understood individual technical means of production as an expression of creative power and emphasised the artistic side of craftsmanship.

Thorpe’s collages (Good People, 2002; The Axe Laid On The Root, 2004) depict landscapes — massive rock formations and sparse forests — in which part futuristic, part seemingly nostalgic buildings are inscribed as symbiotic alien bodies. The detailed views exactingly assembled from such materials as bark, slate, leather, wood, glass and gravel and with a painterly effect that is particularly striking from a distance, demonstrate Thorpe’s sensual and painstaking approach. The autarchy and solitude dominating his portrayals testify to his interest in alternative and utopian life plans. It seems as if the invisible inhabitants of the architecture have set off as a community of like-minded persons to realise their dreams and notions of perfection en miniature: a shelters that veil the objective against the subjective world.

In recent years, Thorpe has translated the productive ambivalence between historical research and imagination already expressed in the collages into space-filling installations which form the hub of the exhibition. Large folding-screens made out of wood and coloured glass form an autonomous place separate from the exhibition space proper that lead the viewer out of the realm of factual givens into
a world of the possible.

In The Defeated Life Restored, 2006/07, the watercolours that oscillate between crafty precision and ambivalence draw upon the artistic conventions of botanical studies, altering natural forms into fictional fauna.

Ornamentally conceived, star-shaped sculptures equally recall ethnological cult objects and science fiction architecture. The pieces can thus be understood as time machines, as models of notions that combine the past, the present and the future with each other.

The visionary abstraction of an unknown future is given a rather apocalyptical tone in A Weak Light Flickering, 2007/08. Influenced by the writings of 17th-century separatist groups and the preacher John Saltmarsh (died 1647), Thorpe produced six text panels in watercolour whose graphic structure lends unmistakable expression to the intonation of emotional states of tension and announces the vision of a new life.

If Thorpe’s installations depict the ornament as an artistic structure and means of atmospheric expression, it emancipates itself in recent works to become the centre of his activities. Vegetative, ornamental structures dominate Thorpe’s space-filling floor piece The Plaque, 2009, which he made especially for the exhibition at the Kunstverein Hannover out of ceramic tiles. In the Arts and Crafts Movement, the ornament personified the notion of the living that confronted industrial products regarded as “soulless” with a new ideal of authentic design and was regarded as a mediator between aesthetic joy between producer and viewer.

In a new series of large-format collages (Century Guild, 2009; W. M., 2009; C. R. A., 2009), relief-like overlapping ornamental fragments of tree barks, moss and blossoms are permeated and framed by wooden passepartouts that are in turn decorated with foliage motifs. Forms of nature and of art, historicizing recourses and fictional visions form an inseparable ambivalent unit in the over-abundant ornamentation of Thorpe’s work until they disintegrate again in the origins of nature.

The exhibition includees loans from significant private collections of contemporary art with new pieces produced especially for the exhibition.

David Thorpe, The Defeated Life Restored, 2006-07, Wood, glass, 3 sculptures on pedestals, 6 framed watercolours, Installation, Dimensions variable, Courtesy Zabludowicz Collection, Installation view Camden Arts Center.

David Thorpe, A Weak Light Flickering, 2007-08, Wood, glass, 6 framed works, oil on paper, Dimensions variable, Courtesy Maureen Paley, London / Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe / Berlin, Installation view Museum Kurhaus Kleve.