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Haunch of Venison presents ‘Various Arrangements’ an exhibition of new works by British artist Jamie Shovlin.
This exhibition will present a series of 17 new large-scale paintings based on the cover designs of the Fontana Modern Masters series, a set of pocket guides published in the 1970s on eminent writers, philosophers and thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust.
The paintings in this exhibition represent titles that were scheduled for publication but for unknown reasons did not appear. Driven by a fascination of the ambition and appearance of the Fontana series, and a longstanding interest in typography and graphic design, Shovlin devised a system - set out in a colour wheel - that would allow him to produce paintings of each of these unpublished and unknown book covers.
In the first gallery space the exhibition reveals the methodology Shovlin used to produce the paintings with a display of the original Fontana Modern Masters books, the formula used to colour-match the large canvases to smaller watercolour versions, and the colour wheel itself, which serves as a key to the entire project. The large canvases are displayed throughout the two larger gallery spaces.
Considered a design classic the Fontana Modern Masters series are instantly recognizable owing to the vivid geometric image on the cover. The books were published in six separate sets and each set has its own distinctive cover design. In order to predict the colours and pattern that might have made up the cover design of the unpublished books, Shovlin created a points system that he used to score the subject – or Modern Master –of each book. Criteria such as the number of pages in their book, the number of other Modern Master texts cited in the book bibliography, whether they were a Nobel Prize winner and so on were counted by Shovlin and recorded in the colour wheel. The total score could be interpreted to indicate the success, popularity or intellectual weight of each Modern Master but also, working from the covers of existing books, the colour and composition of the new cover designs.
The outcome of this system results in a variety of potential designs foreach cover –one of which wasselected by Shovlin as a primary design. The failed designs were incorporated into the paintings as each canvas was painted and repainted, burying the variations under the selected design that sits at the front of the picture. A trace of each preceding layer is retained through the various spills, drips, lines and overlaps evident in the final surface of each painting, hinting at the intrinsic flaws in the artist’s self-devised system and the value of classificatory systems in everyday life.
Read more about Jamie Shovlin's work in Cassone, November 2011