Over the last thirty years Michael Simpson (b.1940 Dorset, UK) has focused on just two series, Bench Paintings (1989-2009) and Squint (2009 – present). A ‘leper squint’ is an architectural feature that can be found in medieval churches across Europe. The narrow aperture allowed lepers and other ‘undesirable’ members of society to witness the service from outside without threatening the congregation with disease. While on one level Simpson’s subject matter is the infamy of religious history and the politics of belief, the artist states that these subjective references provide only a subtext for his principal subject: the mechanics of painting.

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Michael Simpson Portrait Courtesy The Artist And Blain Southern Photo Wolfgang Stahr
Photo: Wolfgang Stahr

GALLERY EXHIBITIONS

Blain|Southern Berlin
SQUINT

SQUINT

16 September – 28 October 2017

Blain|Southern London
Revolt of the Sage

Revolt of the Sage

24 November 2016 – 21 January 2017

INSTITUTIONS

Spike Island, Bristol, UK
Flat Surface Painting

Flat Surface Painting

16 January – 27 March 2016

NEWS

Michael Simpson Wins John Moores Painting Prize

British painter awarded prestigious prize at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

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BIOGRAPHY

Accordingly, Michael Simpson’s works open up a set of conversations about light, space, composition, surface and colour. These are the concerns of every painter throughout history. But if we extend these ideas into the more abstract realms of balance, elegance, plausibility, belief and reason, we can imagine how a painting by Simpson becomes a metaphysical proposition. Indeed, Simpson’s work reminds us that many painters find metaphysical potential in the tangible forms and surfaces of everyday objects. In his case, a ladder, ramp, step or stairway is the only object in each painting, besides the squint that it leads to. The spareness of the subject matter allows focus to rest on the formal elements of the painting. With the steps positioned or composed as if to challenge physical access, the squint remains an inaccessible black void rather than a portal to the divine. Simpson resolutely keeps his viewers outside, staring at a flat surface, at what de Chirico might call the ‘tranquil and senseless beauty of matter’.

By focusing on the structure and formal elements of the painting, Simpson asks how a flat surface can conjure an illusion of space. And he takes that idea further to ask why we derive so much pleasure from that illusion? If illusions of physical depth propose metaphysical depth, what might that imply about the structure of our perceptions, our tendency to believe? Simpson’s ladders might suggest that there is no way to lift ourselves beyond the constraints of sense perception, and that our belief systems must be kept in check by acknowledging these limits.

In Vitamin P3, a guide to contemporary painting, critic Barry Schwabsky describes Simpson’s ‘allegiance to a conception more readily associated with abstraction than with painting that employs images’. He goes on to describe the artist’s preoccupation with ‘the idea that painting is not a kind of imaginary opening in the wall through which we get an illusory view of another world, but rather a physical thing that is made, whose flat surface confronts the viewer with a presence that demand engagement.’

 

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CV

1940, Born in Dorset, UK 
Lives and works in Wiltshire, UK


EDUCATION     

1958-60
Bournemouth College of Art 

1960-63 
Royal College of Art, London 


AWARDS

2016    
John Moores Painting Prize, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (first prize)

2000   
The Arts Foundation Fellowship in Painting (winner)

1991   
John Moores 17, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (prize winner)

1977   
Tolly Cobbald/Eastern Arts First Exhibition, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, (joint first prize)

1976   
Arts Council of Great Britain Major Award

1975   
Southern Arts Council Major Award

1968   
Open Painting Exhibition Arts Council of Northern Ireland (joint first prize)

1963   
British Council Scholarship to the Soviet Union

1960   
University of London Exhibition (first prize)

 

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

 
2017   
Squint, Blain|Southern Berlin, DE

2016   
Flat Surface Painting, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK

2015    
Flat Surface Painting, Spike Island, Bristol, UK

2014   
Study #6, Michael Simpson, David Roberts Arts Foundation, London, UK

2013   
The Leper Squint Paintings 2012 – 13, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK

2007   
Bench Paintings Recent Work 2005 – 2006, David Risley Gallery, London, UK

2005   
Bench Paintings, an Installation, Hymn- Psalm-Song-Prayer, The Tithe Barn, UK

1996   
Bench Paintings 1992-1995, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol and Oriel 31, Newtown, UK

1985   
Michael Simpson: Paintings, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK

1983   
Michael Simpson Paintings 1980-1983, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, UK

1973   
Six large paintings, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, UK

1972   
Recent Paintings, Piccadilly Gallery, London, UK

1968   
Paintings, University of Sussex, UK Paintings and Drawings, Piccadilly Gallery, London, UK

1964   
Recent Paintings, Piccadilly Gallery, London, UK


SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2016   
Revolt of the Sage, Blain|Southern London, UK Shall we sit, stand or kneel to pray?, Marlborough Contemporary, New York, US
John Moores Painting Prize,
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK           
The Painting Show, The British Council Touring Show, Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), Vilnius, UK;Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick, Ireland, IE 
On the Immense and the Numberless, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK
Bench, Tintype Gallery, London, UK

2015   
Tightrope Walk; Painted Images after Abstraction, White Cube, Bermondsey, London, UK
Reinventing Representation, White Cube, London, UK Absence. Looking for Hammershoi, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK

2013   
The Debris of the Fuck drawings 1970 – 74, Kunst Als Forschung, Serge Stauffer Helm Haus, CH

2010   
Paper Show, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, DK

2007
Citadel 1: Front Room/Killing Room, David Risley Gallery, London, UK

2005
Accidental Death, David Risley Gallery, London, UK Crivelli’s Nail, Chapter Gallery, Cardiff, UK

2000
Jerwood Open Drawing Exhibition, Hull, UK; Kunsthalle Sierre, CH

1999
On the Threshold, Octagon Gallery, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

1998
East International, Norwich, UK

1993
John Moores Painting Prize 18, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK

1991
John Moores Painting Prize 17, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK

1989   
John Moores Painting Prize 16, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK

1987   
On a Plate, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK

1982  
British Drawing, Hayward Gallery, London, UK

1977   
Tolly Cobbald Open, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Sheffield, UK; Ipswich, UK; London, UK

1975   
Chichester National Open, UK

1971   
John Player Open, Nottingham, UK

1968   
Art for Industry, Royal College of Art, London, UK Arts Council of Northern Ireland Open, Belfast, UK Ten English Art Galleries, Florence, IT

1964   
New Painting 1961-64, Arts Council Touring Exhibition, UK Three Young Painters from the Royal College of Art, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK

1963   
The London Group 1963 ‘Contemporary Image’, Upper Grosvenor Gallery, London, UK

1962   
Painting from English Art Schools, Paris 1959 – 62, Paris, FR

1961   
New Painting 1958-61, Arts Council Touring Exhibition, UK

1960   
University of London Exhibition, UK

1959   
Young Contemporaries, London, UK
Arts Council Collection: Recent Acquisitions, Arts Council Touring Exhibition, UK


SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

2016    
Flat Surface Painting, Spike Island, Bristol, UK Barry Schwabsky ed., Vitamin P, Phaidon Press, London, UK

2015    
Barry Schwabsky ed., Tightrope Walk: Painted Images after Abstraction, White Cube, London, UK

2005    
Hymn-Psalm-Song-Prayer: Bench Paintings, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, UK

1996   
Bench Paintings 1992-1995, Arnolfini Gallery and Oriel 31, London, UK


SELECTED ARTICLES AND REVIEWS

2017   
H.Pietsch, “Metaphysische Räume - Michael Simpson, (Metaphysical Spaces)”, ART - Das Kunstmagazin, February

2016   
A. Wallace-Thomson, “Revolt of the Sage”, Art Forum, December
L. Buck, “Commercial Success: The trio of independent galleries showcasing thought-provoking shows”, The Telegraph, December M.Brown, “Michael Simpson wins 2016 John Moores Painting Prize”, The Guardian, 7 July
D. Trigg, “Michael Simpson, Flat Surface Paintings, Spike Island, Art Review, April
M. Wallinger, “Michael Simpson, Flat Surface Paintings”, Spike Island, The Observer, February
P. Carey-Kent, “Michael Simpson, Flat Surface Paintings”, Spike Island, Bristol, Frieze, March
B. Fenner, “Michael Simpson”, Aesthetica Magazine, February/March, #69
L. Buck, “Michael Simpson, Flat Surface Paintings”, Spike Island, Bristol, The Art Newspaper, January
A. Quicho, “Michael Simpson, Flat Surface Paintings”, This is Tomorrow Magazine, March 2015
A. Searle, “Tightrope Walk, White Cube”, The Guardian, December
B. Luke, “Michael Craig Martin”s invited Artists at the R.A. Summer Show”, Evening Standard , June

2014   
D. Dalwood, “In conversation with Michael Simpson”, David Roberts Art Foundation, April
W. Pym, “The Confidence Man”, Michael Simpson at David Roberts Art Foundation, April     
Barry Schwabsky, “Michael Simpson”s Bench Paintings” David Roberts Art Foundation”, April

2013               
K. Wright, “Michael Simpson painter”, The Independent, August   

2007   
J. Lack, “Michael Simpson Recent Paintings”, David Risley Gallery, The Guardian, January
M. Rappolt, “Future Greats, Twenty-five Artists to look out for in 2007”, Art Review , March
Barry Schwabsky, “Michael Simpson, David Risley Gallery”, Art Forum, April
R. Harris, “To think is to speculate with images”, Turps Banana, Issue Three, July

1996    
J. McEwan, “Michael Simpson, Bench Paintings”. Sunday Telegraph, January J. Tozer, “Michael Simpson”, Galleries, January

1992    
R. Kendall, “The State of the Art”. Apollo Magazine, John Moores 17, January

1985    
N. Pollitt, “Michael Simpson at the Serpentine”, City Limits, August

1984    
K. Rowat, “Michael Simpson Arnolfini”, The Guardian, January
E. Phelps, “Michael Simpson, Arnolfini Gallery”, Arts Review, January
A. Sheldon, “Michael Simpson Paintings 1980-83”, Venue, January
L. Biggs, “Michael Simpson Paintings 1980-83”, The Arnolfini Review, January

1982   
F. Spalding, the Hayward Annual, Times Literary Supplement, August

1975   
T. Gleadow, “Michael Simpson”, Southern Arts, April

1968   
M. Vaizey, “Michael Simpson”, Arts News and Review, April

N. Lynton, “Michael Simpson”, The Guardian, April 
D. Blady, “Michael Simpson”, New York Herald Tribune, April
Anon, “Michael Simpson”, Financial Times, April
J. Russell, “Michael Simpson”, Sunday Times, April

1960   
W. Van der Eyken, “London University Exhibition”, London Evening Standard, April 16


PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Tate, London, UK
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, DK
British Council Collection, London, UK
Arts Council England, UK
David Roberts Arts Foundation, London, UK
The Ekard Collection, NL
Lim Collection, HK
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK
Ulster Museum and Art Gallery, Belfast, IE
Royal College of Art, London, UK
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, UK
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Cumbria, UK
The Stuyvesant Foundation, NL
Southern Arts Association, University of Oxford, UK
Control Techniques, The Arup Building, UK
Camden Borough Council, London, UK
Carlisle Art Gallery and Museum, UK
Council of Northern Ireland, IE

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