Nicolas Samson-Agnez Gallery

A brief introduction.

A Sport and a Pastime is a series of paintings I started in winter around 2005/06. They are oil and casein paintings on sized rice paper, glued on to either primed canvas or primed MDF. As their surfaces are fairly fragile, it has been necessary for exhibition purposes to have many of them framed and placed under glass. Work on the series happened on and off for a number of years and although I have by now ceased to do so, the issues these paintings raised still linger: how does one choose amongst the many topics that makes themselves available to you and how does one find a pictorial language that can match and contain it?

Some of the paintings in the series have been shown in small group shows in France, others at one in London. The first took place in Paris in 2015 and had the appropriate title ‘Dualite’ des Sexes’. The second happened a few months later at an exhibition arranged by the dealer Nicolas Samson- Agnez in Normandy, just outside the town of Falaise. The following year a smaller selection was shown in a summer show at the Lubomirov/ Angus-Hughes gallery in Hackney, London. Finally there are a few, not necessarily the worst that has never been shown in public, but nevertheless have been included in this folder.

The series, A Sport and a Pastime was the first, new project I started after a lengthy stay away from making images, what I like to think of as playing my instrument: engaging with the world around me by reorganizing it using form and colour. It was to my own surprise something without any tactile quality, a thing I had read in a book that that made the spark that ignited these new images: a slim novel written by James Salter that I had bought and read shortly after it had been republished in 2002. Not surprisingly it comes with the same title as I had chosen for my series of paintings.

What probably appealed to me and convinced me to give the book a try was its cover, which carried a marvelous photograph by Jacques Henri Lartigue. It shows his young wife, Florette in their shared home in the south of France, light pouring through some unseen Venetian blinds and flattening the image one sees. I had found the book itself a tough read, no doubt about it. Its brief and confrontational style, the way it dealt with a certain kind of male identity stirred me. I recognized the portrait it contained of the main character as something significant, a sign of behavior embedded in the post war western culture, which had been handed down to me in drips from my parent’s generation. It may well be what got me engaged, spurred on to make a reply.

As an introduction to the book, the writer had chosen a quote from the Koran, which goes as follows: ‘Remember that the life of this world is but a sport and a pastime’ (Koran, LVII 19). I am certain it was this quote, more than anything else that challenged me into working on these paintings.

I have uploaded a short film, made with Conor O’Callaghan in 2015 on to Vimeo. It features some of the paintings from the series: (the playing time is 3:36 min).

This text is a condensed version, a quick recapture if you like of some lengthy email correspondence I had with Nicolas Samson-Agnez, leading up to the two exhibitions in France, where some of this work was shown.