The show is directly inspired by American writer Richard Brautigan’s 1976 cult classic, Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel, and is comprised of nine small-scale paintings exquisitely rendered in pencil, watercolour and collage.
The assembled works, which have been created over a two year period, channel the book’s two parallel narrative threads. The first focuses on a heartbroken American writer who has recently been left by his Japanese lover. His obsessive thoughts about her prevent him from concentrating on a story he is writing, in which a sombrero falls from the sky in a sleepy town in the American southwest. Eventually, and despairingly, the author throws what he has written into the wastepaper basket, but the discarded story continues to write itself, so beginning the second narrative, which recounts a bizarre tale in which the sombrero becomes an object of fascination, attracting enormous crowds and fierce debate before ultimately provoking a civil war.
Buchanan’s intention with the paintings riffs on the duality of the book that inspired them, in that each work reflects both the subtlety of Brautigan’s writing and the merged use of graphite and watercolour at the heart of her practice, which sees her juxtapose the saturated, stark monochrome of the writer sitting alone in his apartment with the psychedelic palette of the sombrero in the wastepaper basket.
The artist admits the creation of this body of work and her interest in Brautigan’s novel has bordered on the obsessional, leading her to approach strangers in the street who bore a resemblance to Brautigan’s characters, and asking them to pose for her. She even bought up all the sombrero postcards she could find on eBay to fuel her passion.
For Buchanan the exhibition is both a celebration of Brautigan – Jarvis Cocker has described him as the Hemmingway of the 1960’s – and a campaign to introduce his writing to new audiences. To this end, the exhibition will include a first edition of Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel and other historical artefacts courtesy of Dr. John F. Barber, founder, curator and archivist of the Richard Brautigan Archives. The exhibition will also house the launch of ‘Seeing Richard’ for the first time in the UK, a book of previously unpublished and rare images of Richard Brautigan taken by the photographer Erik Weber and published by Tangerine Press. There will be a limited number of books on sale.
Says gallery director Tabitha Philpott-Kent: ‘Lilias Buchanan is a refreshing new talent, and It is a great honour to be showing this compelling series of work at Shapero Modern. We are also delighted that Lilias has chosen to curate within her exhibition a presentation of Richard Brautigan’s work, adding a further dimension to an already compelling show.’