Last Chance to See: David Batchelor's Flatlands at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket

By Jenni Davidson | 12 July 2013

Exhibition review: David Batchelor – Flatlands, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until July 14 2013

Five black rectangles with coloured shading
Hackney Drawing (2003). Spray paint and adhesive tape on graph paper. Courtesy the artist / Galeria Leme, São Paulo / Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh© David Batchelor (photograph Thierry Bal)
David Batchelor loves colour. That isn’t unusual for an artist, of course, but he really, really loves it, and not the landscape painter’s subtle shades of nature either, but the bold, garish, artificial colours of cheap plastic and gloss paint.

Better known for his sculptural installations, Flatlands is Batchelor’s first exhibition solely dedicated to two-dimensional works. It gives a sense of the joy Batchelor must feel when faced with a Dulux colour chart.

There are four sets of work in the exhibition: Atomic Drawings, diagrammatic and working drawings, Blob Paintings and The October Colouring-In Book. By far the most eye-catching are the Blob Paintings.

The Blob Paintings are indeed just that: blobs of single-colour household gloss paint poured onto sheets of aluminium, sat, as it were, on a single black rectangle.

With no mixing involved, the colours appear just as they come out of the tin. The shape and surface appearance is all in the luck of how they dry.

Some are silky smooth, others rippled like a lake with the wind blowing across it or a map with raised mountain ranges and river valleys.

Beautifully simple, like a dissected rainbow, they exude the love of a good hue.

Batchelor says he aims to keep the paint as good as it is in its unadulterated state. The Blob paintings are as close to that as you can get.

The Atomic Drawings are more complex, but show the same appreciation for colour and texture.

These mixed media designs in pen, pencil, pastel, tape, spray paint, gouache and acrylic are plans for objects that will never be created, so they are unconstrained by either reality or practicality.

Alongside them are a series of drawings and plans for actual physical works created by Batchelor, including the plan for Disco Mécanique at the 2008 Folkestone Triennial, a sculpture created from thousands of pairs of sunglasses, and Slugfest, a series of liquorice allsort-like black tubes with fluorescent lights.

The October Colouring-In Book, Batchelor's newest work in the exhibition, was completed only this year.

October is a journal of contemporary art theory and criticism which famously eschews the use of colour. Batchelor has ripped out pages from the 1976 first edition and decorated them with coloured patterns.

While he did not deliberately relate the design to the content, the arrangement of the drawings serendipitously highlights pieces of texts, creating new conjunctions of image and text.

For fans of Batchelor's three-dimensional work, Flatlands is a chance to get behind the scenes and find out a bit more about what makes him tick.

  • Open 11am-6pm (12pm-5pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @fruitmarket.
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