Hempstead May Gallery is pleased to present ‘Deeper’, an exhibition of large format fine art prints celebrating the portraiture of Alastair Thain.
After a decade of separation, Alastair Thain and Hempstead May founders, Jon Hempstead and India May, have immersed themselves in a stunning new collaboration, combining Thain’s diverse archive with Hempstead & May’s unparalleled knowledge of colour and print. An archive of unearthed negatives beautifully brought back to life, ‘Deeper’ is the first piece of a puzzle showcasing the formidable Alastair Thain.
Born in Dusseldorf in 1961 at the height of the cold war, Thain’s creative practice was influenced in particular by the work of Joseph Beuys and the modes of communication Beuys developed to express his healing, egalitarian, social, environmental and political concerns.
Throughout Thain’s photographic endeavours he captured intimate moments with many prolific personalities. From candid portraits of the likes of Robin Williams and Sidney Poitier to being with Stephen Hawking when he announced that “There was no need for a god to create the universe”.
In the early 1980’s Thain was introduced to New York by Robert Mapplethorpe. Thain worked within the downtown scene, witnessing some of the city’s bleakest years and engrossed himself into the artistic movement generated by a creative shift that was far freer and more democratic than it is today. During this period, Thain took the last portrait of Andy Warhol. In the midst of these seminal moments, Thain photographed and exchanged ideas with many artists including Jeff Koons, Gilbert & George, Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat to name a few.
“My very first impression of New York was with Andy Warhol. I got off the flight from the United Kingdom with my only knowledge of the city gained by watching the film Taxi Driver, checked into the Chelsea Hotel, went to a few parties before hooking up that night with Andy. A first impression of the city that affected me deeply, and gave me a lasting love for New York.” I decided to ask Andy to pose with one of the objects that he made his icons. I had the option to ask him to sign a range of objects. In the spirit of a “Warholian” throw away gesture I asked him to sign the banana. I ate it on the way home and lobbed the skin into a passing bin from a New York taxi, with a sense of regret, of my previous decision.”
- Alastair Thain
Wanting to use the opportunities he had been given to make work that was a vector for empathy, Thain sought to connect the viewer with the experiences of individuals he was photographing. Thain designed and built some of the most advanced film cameras ever made and produced spontaneous, highly reactive portraits that captured the emotional states of his subjects, with unprecedented scale, depth and power.
“The only way to push the technical boundaries of portraiture in ways that attempted to emulate the achievements of the artists that I most admired, was by building the cameras. There was simply no other path to take that could deliver similar results.”
The works in this first exhibition with Hempstead May bring together some of the most significant and influential artists of the last 30 years.