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Michael Simpson (b.1940) lives and works in Wiltshire, UK. He studied at Bournemouth College of Art (1958-60) and Royal College of Art, London (1960-63).
Simpson’s career to date has focused on two sustained series of paintings, Bench paintings (1989-2009), and more recently, the Squint series. The intellectual starting point for Simpson’s Bench series is the life of the sixteenth-century Dominican friar Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake for heresy. These are vast canvases, where bench-like structures levitate in mid-air or stand in undefined spaces, paired with seemingly incongruous objects – a hymn board, a grill, lamp or a stool. The Squint paintings reference an aperture built into medieval churches that allowed lepers and other undesirables to witness a service without threatening the congregation with disease. In these works, utilitarian objects, ladders, ramps and steps, ascend towards a simple opening or slit.
While Simpson’s subject matter deals with the infamy of religious history, the artist would add that these subjective references provide only a backdrop for his true subject: the mechanics of painting. Simpson explores the space of the canvas, concerned with the relationship between light, shadow, space, surface and colour, which he interrogates with a concentrated directness.He describes his process as ‘giving form to an idea …. to find a way to put things together in a certain way, to find that coherency which gives a painting austerity, elegance, balance.’
Selected recent solo exhibitions include; Flat Surface Painting, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK (2016); Flat Surface Painting, Spike Island, Bristol, UK (2016); Study #6, David Roberts Arts Foundation, London, UK (2014); The Leper Squint Paintings 2012 – 13, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK (2013). Simpson will have his first solo exhibition with Blain|Southern in Berlin later this year.
Simpson is the recipient of several awards including the Arts Foundation Fellowship in Painting (2000) and most recently the John Moores Painting Prize (2016) for his painting Squint (19).
Simpson’s work is in numerous public collections including; Tate, UK; Arts Council England, UK; Arts Council of Northern Ireland, IE; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, UK; British Council Collection, London, UK; David Roberts Arts Foundation, London, UK; The Ekard Collection, NL; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, DK; Stuyvesant Foundation, NL; Ulster Museum and Art Gallery, Belfast, IE.
Leper Squint Triptych
Oil on canvas
230 x 346.4 cm / (90½ x 136⅜ in)