Simon is perhaps best known for his large and small-scale ‘painted drawings’ in which he mingles his distinctive imagery and words. He moves lightly between tight draughtsmanship and a playfully abandoned application of colour and line. Language is paramount with diaristic musings interspersed with song lyrics, poetry and humorous one-liners. Self-described as ‘automatic’, his work has the spontaneity of stream-of-consciousness, exploring themes of love and loss, as well as gay and popular culture.
Paint Your Wagon, the title of the exhibition was taken from an old record discarded in a junk shop window, closed throughout lockdown. It refers to the 1960's film musical made famous with the song "Wand'rin Star". English has a magpie eye for words and objects, rife for recontextualization. This is the same gaze that formulates his sculptural works and reassembles street detritus to new effect. Hovering somewhere between Painting the Town Red and Falling Off the Wagon the show comes as we emerge from lockdown, recognition of the loss inherent to the last year and the pitfalls it engendered for many.
The exhibition is comprised of a series of large, jointed, canvases. Essentially diptychs, the two halves are often composed by English independently and then paired with the same spontaneous flare with which he channels words and experiences into paint. The pairs jar with each other and converse. Some are carefully composed across the bridge where the canvases meet, others are like sheets from a Goliath’s sketch pad, teared and paired with a seeming abandon which belies the many aesthetic and conceptual links between the two. One solitary sculpture accompanies the paintings, the cast of a cowboy hat’s interior in flamingo pink. To take the familiar and turn it inside out, to upend the known and dismantle the stereotype, such is Simon’s gift.
Paint Your Wagon is accompanied by a text by Daniel James Wilkinson which is a foray into the absurd. Entitled Epilogue the text, rather than offering the imagined ‘conclusion’ to Simon’s practice, instead offers a Dadaist point of departure. A reflection of the myriad of ways in which his enigmatic paintings can be read. “You can look at the stars, look at the oceans; the answer’s somewhere, here’s what I reckon; close your eyes, kiss the future, and jump the morgue”.
Simon English lives and works in London. He emerged on the London Art scene in 1994 with an exhibition of paintings at the Saatchi Gallery as part of Young British Art III. Simon has exhibited internationally at numerous institutions including The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; Peer Gallery, London, Musee D’Art Contemporaine de Val de Marne (MAC VAL), Paris France; Tate Britain, London. In 2020 he had a three story solo show at Transpalette Centre D’Art Contemporain, in Bourges France, curated by guest curator Frank Lamy entitled “Your Top Is My Bottom.” His work is included in the collections of Louisiana Museum of Modern art, Denmark; Falckenberg Collection, Germany; Arts Council of Great Britain, U.K; Saatchi Collection U.K; The Government Art Collection, U.K; The Tate Collection, U.K; The Burger Collection, Switzerland; British Museum, U.K; Tate Britain, U.K; The Rosenblum Collection, France; La Fab, La Collection Agnes B, France; The Albertina Museum, Austria; Volker Diel Collection, Germany.