neil cummings

Water Painting

WaterpaintingA long time ago, I was asked by the Whitechapel Gallery, London, to contribute an artwork for the Bigger Splash Benefit Auction, to raise funds for their public programme.

Each invited artist was supplied with watercolour paints, paper and brushes.

I wondered what kind of watercolours would collectors of contemporary art like?

Of course, they like what other collectors like them like. I thought, what paintings are popular?

Gary Hume paintings are very, very popular. I decided to make two Gary Hume-like watercolours, copies of images reproduced in the catalogue of the Whitechapel exhibition in 1999; from his Water Painting series.

Like this one (left) since 2000 in the Tate Collection

Following his usual practice, Hume linear-traced silhouettes of women from found photographic imagery onto aluminium panels. He offsets and superimposes them, then paints flat, high-key, household gloss monochrome grounds. The outlines float, flicker and ripple, producing his familiar seductive, sexy, paintings.

I extended the process by tracing photographic reproduction of the paintings from the Whitechapel exhibition catalogue, transferred them to paper, masked the wiry tracings, and then laid down flat-wash watercolour backgrounds. Water Painting mutations.

The watercolours are beautiful, they look as though Gary Hume produced them, and most Art Fair visitors thought he had produced them.

Although on my part, there was no intention to deceive, the paintings were clearly credited to me.

The watercolours did extremely well for the Whitechapel at auction. One of the two was bought by a collector and given to the retiring director of the Whitechapel, Catherine Lampert as a gift. The other was hastily purchased by Gary Hume's gallerist, Jay Joplin of White Cube, obviously to support the Whitechapel, but also to keep the painting out of the market-place.  Makes sense.

The Tate recently made tens of thousands of copies of the Water Painting in their collection (above) and issued them as a postcard.

Other artists who kindly donated work to A Bigger Splash include; Fiona Banner, David Batchelor, Sonia Boyce, Tony Bevan, Ian Davenport, Peter Doig, Tracey Emin, Mark Francis, Anya Gallaccio, Cathy de Monchaux, Paul Morrison, Paul Noble, Chris Ofili, Julian Opie, Grayson Perry, Bob & Roberta Smith, Wolfgang Tillmans, Shafique Uddin, Jessica Voorsanger, Rachel Whiteread, Alison Wilding, and Paul Winstanley.



The project is related to Circulating Artworks, Not Me, Benefit Auction  and Still Life 1914.


51.5161, -0.0701

Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High Sreet
E1 7QX
United Kingdom

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