Hurvin Anderson’s paintings flirt between abstraction and figuration, their tranquil scenes merging unstable ideas of memory, conjoined histories, and cross-culturalism. Peter’s Sitter’s 3 imagines a home barbershop, a cottage industry taken up by many newly arrived Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s. Rendered in a reduced palette of blue, white, and red, the scene conveys the experience of freshly acquired British identity, its aspirations and hard realities. The brilliant tones and translucent veneers of the floor and ceiling hark to the open expanse of tropical seaside, while the opaque geometric walls and modest furnishings create a rigidly grounded environment, conveying a sense of disorientation and displacement.
In Anderson’s Afrosheen a barbershop dissembles into a weight-defying field of shapes, textures, and colours, its homey clutter, so intimately familiar, is made surreal and dream-like. Executed in large scale, Anderson’s canvas retains an innocent domestic charm while asserting a commanding and sophisticated engagement with abstraction. Bold red and blue blocks defy spatial perspective, taking centre stage against muted tones layered in gossamer stripes, slate-like squares, and sensitive fluid brushwork. Set under an expanse of airy sky, the scene’s construction belies nostalgic illusion as dabbed clippings and papers appear impossibly suspended over the disappearing floor.
In his work Anderson draws from his heritage as second generation Jamaican-British; the subjects of his paintings are developed from both of these cultures, overlapping his parents’ generation’s experiences with his own. This sense of something familiar yet detached is conveyed through his canvases in their dislocated sense of place and hazy interpretation of detail. Anderson works from photographs rather than actual memory, a process which further enhances his aesthetic of distance. Untitled (Beach Scene) pictures an exotic paradise as melting and degraded, a shadowy and sorrowful landscape where the only concrete certainty is the brilliant blue shape of the horizon.