The unassuming locations, so faithfully rendered on paper or canvas by Narbi Price hold a much darker history than we could initially suspect.
Although Price’s interests mostly involve painting, he has created a series of lithographs, (which have been shown at PAPER in the past) and mark a slight change in the artist’s approach to the development of his work – never before has he returned to a series of completed paintings to interpret them in print.
Fascinated by the notoriously famous case of Jack the Ripper, Price concentrates on historical crime-scenes, subtly unveiling their past and causing the reading of his images to change permanently to in the minds of viewers. Based on forensic findings from the time, the artist was able to locate the areas accurate to within 30cm of the actual sites, despite them having become public car parks and school yards. Interestingly, there is nothing to suggest the significance of the depicted sites within the images themselves, the only indication being the titles: the victims’ initials in brackets. Similarly, the series is entitled ‘Shan’t Quit’, words used in the killer’s famous ‘Dear Boss’ letter.
We briefly chat with the the artist about his creative process and the importance of mystery in his art.
I’ve had a long fascination with the Jack the Ripper case, a lot of which is down the mystique around his identity and the fact that he was never caught. Also, the gap between the popular impressions of him (doctor’s bag, cloak, top hat) and the witness descriptions of the time. It’s important to me that there is an element of a reveal there though, I think if the viewer is aware of the history first, there’s a risk of the work becoming illustrative.
On a more practical level, the exercise was a conscious attempt to remove a level of control from the kind of imagery I make. Having very specifically found the locations I then had to make a painting or a drawing of whatever was there, side stepping a lot of the aesthetic decision making and at the same time making it more difficult.
What themes do you pursue in general?
I’m generally interested in representing sites that for whatever reason have some kind of historical import, high or low cultural, sinister or frivolous, real or myth to an extent it doesn’t matter, the site just needs to capture my imagination.
Generally I have no preconceived idea of what kind image I will end up with, and the lack of control is interesting to me. It presents practical challenges both in researching the locations and painterly ones in the depiction of whatever is there. So the process certainly has an effect on how the work develops.
Is there a reason behind the use of lithography for the ‘Shan’t Quit’ series? A lot of your work consists of painting and I’m wondering what caused the change for these particular pieces.
There are also paintings made from the same photographs as the prints. In fact the paintings came first. Painting is very much the primary focus of my work, lithography I see very much as supplementary thing. It’s also the first time that I’ve revisited the same images to make further work from. Having the increased time with the image had the effect of loosening my approach to technique and enabled me to employ a looser and more experimental style.
Narbi Price is currently showing at Vane in Newcastle. Shan’t Quit is on until 26th October. http://www.vane.org.uk as well as at The Manchester Contemporary this weekend: www.themanchestercontemporary.com
See more of Narbi’s work here: http://www.narbiprice.co.uk/