A clash of solid & ephemeral colour: David Batchelor at Cecilia Brunson Projects
For over three decades, David Batchelor has been exploring how colours interact with one another, place & material. With a show at Cecilia Brunson Projects the artist continues this exploration across paper, concrete, beads & light.

An elbow brushed the breezeblock. The four blocks looked precarious. Pretty in their brightness, but precarious in their balance. The gallery-goer took their glass of private view white wine to their mouth and in doing so pulled their elbow away from David Batchelor’s Concreto-Concreto 11 (2024). The stack of yellow, purple, sky blue, and red collaged concrete blocks remained safely on its plinth.

Like romantically stacked stones on a mountaintop, but more brutalist in nature, Batchelor had spraypainted these irregularly hewn building blocks. The colours are key, turning mundane lumps of construction into art object by virtue of a carefully selected and contrasted palette. Batchelor’s career has all been about colour, not just in an art practice that has crossed countless mediums, but also in writing – his book Chromophobia, published in 2000, which considers colour through Western culture is just one of several writings on the theme, including his editorship of the Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press reader, Colour.


At the deepest part of the small gallery, tucked away around a corner and with its own small ledge, sits a small bookmark-sized strip of pattern. Early Bead Work (1970) has an intricate floral motif, created during the artist’s “hippy years”, it now forms the starting inspiration for New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Batchelor’s exhibition at Cecilia Brunson Projects.

There are other bead works on show, but the piece from 54 years ago is not only markedly different in its comparatively muted colours, but also in scale. The four other beaded pieces are far, far larger – the biggest is 50x60cm and fills most of a wall.

While the 1970s beads were made by Batchelor himself, many of the newer works on show were created by London craftswomen and drawn from techniques found in Marrakech and Guadalajara. The beads shown here were meticulously sewn by Lauren Godfrey with support from Scarlett Bunce, the piece acting as translation from the artist’s drawings and colour studies. It’s not uncommon for artists to have makers, fabricators, and artisans to make or contribute to works, but rarely are the workers acknowledged or named, so to see the network of skill clearly stated is welcome.


Nearby are two quilts – made by Catherine-Marie Longtin – are also striking through thoughtfully composed colours. At first glance, the hanging works look flat, but up close there is a detail borne of the material and process: cotton and nylon has attracted fluff, the handmadeness can be seen in the stitching, and tiny rough edges remind of the processes of making.

These bead and quilt pieces pose a delicate lightness against the concrete on plinths and ripped paper collages gridded across the largest wall. Above, two small vinyl patterns are affixed to glass rooflights, easy to miss on at the early-evening private view but no doubt much more present in the space when (if?) the London sun pierces through to shoot the coloured pattern into the space and across the physical works. Deployed across both gentle and lumpen material, made solid and ephemeral, a clash of colours fills the space.

In Chromophobia, Batchelor argued that in Western culture colour has been “relegated to the realm of the superficial” and is considered a cosmetic, not critical, quality. His career has been to push, promote, and play with colour in all its forms to fight this relegation, and having been testing and forming in colour for three decades, this show suggests that the artist’s curiosity shows no sign in letting up.


David Batchelor was born in Dundee in 1955 and lives and works in London. In 2013, a major solo exhibition of Batchelor’s two-dimensional work, Flatlands, was displayed at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh and toured to Spike Island, Bristol. Batchelor’s work was included in the landmark group exhibition Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 – 2015 at Whitechapel Gallery, London. A separate exhibition of Batchelor's Monochrome Archive (1997-2015) was also on display at Whitechapel Gallery until May 2015.
Batchelor’s portfolio includes a number of major temporary and permanent artworks in the public realm. These include a commission for the British Council headquarters in Hong Kong; Spectrum on the Hill, Seoul, South Korea; a 10-metre high light installation at the Archway Tube Station in London; and a chromatic clock titled Sixty Minute Spectrum installed as the roof of the Hayward Gallery, London.
Batchelor has written and edited a number of books including Concretos (2022), The Luminous and the Grey (2014), Found Monochromes (2010), Colour (2008), and Chromophobia (2000).


New Skin for the Old Ceremony by David Batchelor is exhibited at Cecilia Brunson Projects, London, until 10 May 2024. More information available at: www.ceciliabrunsonprojects.com/exhibitions/100


figs.i,iv,vi Installation view, David Batchelor: New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Cecilia Brunson Projects, 2024
fig.ii Detail: David Batchelor, CV Quilt 01, 2023, quilt, produced by Catherine-Marie Longtin, 167 x 170 cm
fig.iii David Batchelor b. 1955, Concrete Collage, 2023, spray paint on paper on paper, 56.5 x 42 cm
fig.v David Batchelor, CV Beads, 2024, beadwork, produced by Lauren Godfrey, 50 x 25 cm
fig.vii David Batchelor, CV Vinyl 01, 2024, site-specific installation, Cecilia Brunson Projects
fig.viii David Batchelor, Concrete Collage 19, 2023, spray paint on paper on paper, 56.5 x 42 cm
fig.ix David Batchelor, CV Beads, 2024, beadwork, produced by Lauren Godfrey, 30.5 x 39 cm

publication date
15 April 2024

David Batchelor, Beads, Breezeblock, Scarlett Bunce, Cecilia Brunson Projects, Colour, Concrete, Lauren Godfrey, Light, Catherine-Marie Longtin, Quilts, Vinyl