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Humphrey Ocean

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16 February –– 16 March 2018


Humphrey Ocean in Conversation with Emily Tobin, Arts Editor, House & Garden

ET: How did the collaboration happen with Maurice Payne? HO: It was how I discovered etching, working with Maurice. I was invited by Randy Lerner, who owned some of my paintings, to come to Long Island and make a print. I arrived thinking I should have a big idea but Maurice took one look at my Dot Books, cut some copper plates the same size and we started there. That was clever of him. For years the idea of drawing with needles put me off etching. I thought it was old fashioned but then Maurice introduced me to sugar lift. I am told Picasso used it first and anyway using a soft brush suited me better. We began with relatively small plates that became the set From This We Can Tell. The following week we worked larger and produced Check Chair from a drawing I had made on a Dover to Calais ferry. The presence and size of that chair led on to the Love Chair series. ET: Was printing something you felt compelled to do? HO: No. But seeing the first piece of printed black aquatint, like fine tarmac, peeling away from the plate changed everything for me. Working with black changed how I work with colour. And the indelible stillness, there and incontrovertible, stamped out as if it had been done by someone else, appealed. The thing about an image, it can be absorbed in an instant, like meeting somebody. Or dismissed. If you do come back for a second look, it might be for the rest of your life, a little different each time, moving along with you. 5


ET: Can you discuss the idea of human absence/presence in these works?

motorway with five fairly intense people, but in the end it was not for me, I thought, they enjoy this, I don’t. If there is a flow, art to music, I went in the opposite direction. Oddly though, as a painter I feel more of a Kilburn now, over forty years later. My Black Love Chair etching appeared on a McCartney album cover. I was happy to allow that because he knows about the mysterious way art works.

HO: The human form comes first. I am happy enough walking about and looking at trees but what interests me most is how we have made the world in our image. The pencil I hold fits into my hand. This seems entirely natural. It is not. It is part of our alluringly unnatural world. Same with the chair and doors and floors, all designed with us in mind. Cars too. Difficult now to imagine a world without them, moving with relative ease and us in them, sitting comfortably, listening to stuff and watching the world fly past our windscreens. I have been gazing at one screen or another all my life.

ET: How come sculpture now? HO: I strayed into sculpture. For a few years they looked like someone else had made them and bewildered me. I then took a photograph of Blue Cruise in front of one of my paintings. At that moment it had a foothold and began to emerge or submerge. Either way there was no going back.

ET: How do you feel that printmaking fits into the contemporary art narrative? HO: Print is at heart a way of reaching a wider public, whether it is pictures, newspapers or books. I am more interested in imagination than technology. I think of print as the dent a fleeting impression makes. It can be a potato print or something almost absurdly laborious and time consuming. Either way I like the immediacy.

ET: Why is being local important to you? HO: I use the colour of south London, where I live. There is no place like where you understand the shape of the cars, the cut of the clothes and the humour, home in other words. But it’s nice to get out once in a while. Every so often I go and see my sister who lives outside Nairobi. I like seeing them get up to pretty much the same things as us. They have a particular way of using bright colour there. I once suggested the beautiful lettering and motifs covering their shops was art and they just laughed.

ET: Art and music are uneasy bedfellows, can you talk about that? HO: Art and music, especially rock and roll, have a tricky relationship, despite what people say. The group I played bass in was started at art school. I found the thinking and identity of being a member of Kilburn and the Highroads attractive. I could put up with sitting in a Peugeot estate on the

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New Prints I left it relatively late starting to print. In inverse proportion to what most people think, print is the least easy, most labour intensive way to produce something indelible. But black is at the heart of it and black is the greatest colour in the world.

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Evergreen Etching, 2016. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 10. Printed on HahnemĂźhle paper. The copper plate was transferred from a woodblock hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 24.3 x 29.8 cm Sheet: 30.4 x 35 cm

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Violet Chair Linocut and woodcut, 2018. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 20 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Zerkall paper. Sheet: 67 x 49cm


Chairs After a bed, a chair is the most intimate piece of furniture. I am sitting on one as I write this.

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Love Chair Aquatint, 2006. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 15 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Somerset Velvet Soft White paper. The coloured plate was hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 76.2 x 60.9 cm Sheet: 94.6 x 77.4 cm

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Stripey Love Chair Aquatint, 2006. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 15 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Somerset Velvet Soft White paper. The plate was hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 76.2 x 60.9 cm Sheet: 94.6 x 77.4 cm


Fat Check Chair Aquatint, 2006. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 15 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Somerset Velvet Soft White paper. The two coloured plates were hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 76.2 x 60.9 cm Sheet: 94.6 x 77.4 cm

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Black Stripey Love chair Aquatint, 2006. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 15 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Somerset Velvet Soft White paper. The plate was hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 76.2 x 60.9 cm Sheet: 94.6 x 77.4 cm


Black Love Chair Aquatint, 2006. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 15 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Somerset Velvet Soft White paper. The plate was hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 76.2 x 60.9 cm Sheet: 94.6 x 77.4 cm This print has been used by Sir Paul McCartney for the cover of his album Memory Almost Full, released in 2007.

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Check Chair Aquatint, 2006. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 15 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Somerset Velvet Soft White paper. The two coloured plates were hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 76.2 x 60.9 cm Sheet: 94.6 x 77.4 cm


Dot Books & From This We Can Tell While I was working at the print studio on Long Island I was having breakfast at a café and was brought a particularly burnt and blackened English muffin. I held it up like an archaeologist and said “from this we can tell” and one of the people I was with said that is a good title for a novel. These were my first aquatints and for me as good a place as any to start was with images from my

Dot Books. They are sketch books but a bit more so, like published books except they are original ink drawings of random things that catch my eye. Working with the printer Maurice Payne, I drew with sugar lift directly onto copper plates the same size as the books and chose twelve for a set. I imagine they would bewilder a future archaeologist as much as they bewilder me now.

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Dot Book 2, 2001––2003

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Dot Book Dulwich, 2002

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Dot Book 3, 2004––2007

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From This We Can Tell 1. Cassette 2. Dog 3. Comb 4. Pegasus 5. Book 6. Electra 7. Paper 8. Manger 9. Plaza 10. Watercolour Pan 11. Eleven 12. Manhole Cover The complete set of 12 aquatints, 2004. Each aquatint signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 25 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Arches Watercolour paper. The plates were hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Accompanied by an etched title-page and an etched colophon page in a red buckram-covered solander box. Each plate: 24 x 30 cm Each sheet: 33.4 x 37.8 cm

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This is a china dog, an ornament, rather than a running about type of dog. Like art, the chances are it will live an independent and possibly longer life.

A cassette is sturdy and delicate, like a human being. All the same, humans have outlived cassettes.

Cassette Aquatint, 2018. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 20 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Arches Platine paper. The coloured plate was hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 30 x 41 cm Sheet: 41.6 x 51 cm

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China Dog Aquatint, 2010. Signed and dated in pencil, numbered from the edition of 40 (total edition includes 5 artist’s proofs). Printed on Arches Platine paper. The coloured plate was hand-drawn by the artist, editioned by Maurice Payne, New York. Plate: 30 x 41 cm Sheet: 41.6 x 51 cm


Works On Paper Paper is lovely, immediate and informal. I draw as an end in itself.

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Black Wave Ink on paper, 2017. 32 x 48 cm Yellow Wave Oil on paper, 2017. 48 x 64 cm

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Ripple Ink on paper, 2017. 32 x 48 cm


SR Nova Gouache and ink on paper, 2017. 48 x 64 cm

Blue Yacht Gouache and ink on paper, 2017. 32 x 48 cm

Low Profile Gouache and pencil on paper, 2017. 64 x 48 cm

Catamaran Gouache and ink on paper, 2017. 32 x 48 cm

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Road Sign

Road Sign Enamel on steel, 2015. Edition of 75. 60 x 2 cm Originally exhibited at 50 Years of the British Road Sign, Design Museum, 2015

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I was asked to design a sign for a Design Museum show, marking the 50th anniversary of Margaret Calvert’s seminal pictorial road signs. Her work, copied all over the world, has never been equalled. For practical reasons they are now produced with a reflective surface on aluminium. Mistakenly I assumed they were enamel on steel, like the ones I like on London Underground. So I made this, our island race heading towards gridlock.


Sculpture In the same way as print for me is an equivalent of memory, images stamped onto the brain, the thinking that on paper comes out flat generally starts with seeing and responding to a three dimensional world. I only started making sculpture recently and, like painting, it is not quite what it seems. Magritte’s painting This is Not a Pipe tells you that. It happened after seeing a model ship on a plaster sea made by

a sailor, a votive offering, in a church in Corsica. For a few years I drew and painted the ship without knowing why at first, except being in a studio is a bit like being at sea. Then I saw a piece of wood like a piece of rough sea on the floor of my studio and made a balsawood boat to sit on it. And so it goes on.

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Yellow Curve Wood and oil paint, 2017. 48 (h) x 7 (d) cm

Blue Cruise Wood, 2017. 28 (h) x 59 (w) x 41 (d) cm

Red, White and Blue Wood, 2017. 20.5 (h) x 42 (w) x 22 (d) cm

Breaker Wood, 2017. 20 (h) x 23 (w) x 18 (d) cm

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Biography Humphrey Ocean studied at Canterbury Art School from 1970 to 1973. During that time, he played bass with Kilburn and the Highroads and the band supported The Who on their 1973 Christmas Tour. He had his first major solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1984 and has since shown at Tate Liverpool and Whitechapel Gallery, London. In 2002 a residency at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, culminated in his exhibition how’s my driving. In 2004 he was elected a Royal Academician. More recently he has had shows at Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, 2009 and Jesus College, Cambridge, 2011. A handbook of modern life, a series of new portraits, was at the National Portrait Gallery 2012–13, accompanied by a new publication. Other projects include Big Mouth: The Amazon Speaks, his book with the American anthropologist Stephen Nugent about their visit to Northern Brazil, (Fourth Estate in 1990), Art Everywhere with the Art Fund in 2013 (on billboards, 57 of Britain’s favourite paintings) and in 2014 he painted a portrait of Randy Lerner for the National Portrait Gallery. In 2015 he showed in The 50th Anniversary of the British Road Sign at the Design Museum and he was made an Honorary Doctor by the University of Kent. In 2016 he wrote and presented The Essay for BBC Radio 3 about the continuing Bauhaus influence on Britain. He is currently Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. He lives and works in London. House Plywood, 2016. 20.5 (h) x 24.5 (w) x 20 (d) cm

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Published by Sims Reed Gallery February 2018 43a Duke Street St. James’s London SW1Y 6DD + 44 (0)20 7930 5111 gallery@simsreed.com www.gallery.simsreed.com Designed by Plakat (plakat.co.uk) Type set in Portrait by Berton Hasebe Text pages printed on Galerie Art Satin, Cover on Colorset Printed by Jigsaw Colour All rights reserved. No part of this publication maybe reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing from the publisher.

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Humphrey Ocean I've No Idea Either | Sims Reed Gallery  

New works by Humphrey Ocean RA including prints, works on paper and sculptures. The exhibition is on from 16 February - 16 March.

Humphrey Ocean I've No Idea Either | Sims Reed Gallery  

New works by Humphrey Ocean RA including prints, works on paper and sculptures. The exhibition is on from 16 February - 16 March.