Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press: PERIOD
In this exhibition Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press reflects on a period of suspended animation and future uncertainty.
The central concern of her practice is the exploration of language and communication, here she focuses on its breakdown. Banner has returned to a type of figurative painting, a tradition she rejected some years ago, turning instead to verbal language as a way of making pictures. Here she presents a series of interventions in to found genre paintings; seascapes. In these works, she has painted out the original subject, mighty seafaring vessels, battleships and destroyers, replacing them instead with black, full stops. Although Banner usually uses words in her work, she has returned to this abstract form of language intermittently over the years, so that full stop works literally punctuate her studio practice. To begin with these anti texts were a way of exploring a crisis in her own language, here they are deployed to investigate a wider crisis of language and communication.
'The full stop represents a symbol of language without content, a kind of hollowing out of language, language on the precipice, a crisis where fonts, letters and words cease to function as vessels of meaning.'
Accompanying the paintings is an industrial ship’s fender. Maritime fenders are used to absorb the huge kinetic energy of a ship berthing against land or another vessel. They are used by both military and commercial ships as buffers to prevent contact and damage. Like the typographical full stop, the fender demarcates and creates an in-between space. Here the fender, titled Falcon 59400 pt poses as a full stop from the font of the same name. A scroll of marine rubber stands in as an overblown gallery wall text and also as a colophon, scrambling a book copyright text to make an absurd ode to intellectual freight. It is also a one-off publication registered under the title of Tongue and is typeset in the artist’s own font.
Banner has previously referenced the limitations of language through a series of full stop inflatable sculptures. In an ongoing performance the black abstract forms have floated high above the skylines of coastal towns and cities, from Athens to Bexhill, with the sea as a backdrop. Both these performances and the full stop paintings contemplate the sea as a contentious space, a conduit but also a divider. The work for this exhibition was made over the last three years, a time of polarised rhetoric during which the term post truth has become common vernacular. To coincide with the exhibition the artist has published a new book titled P E R I O D, riffing on the American vernacular for the full stop - a title that links the gendering of objects and mediums, and language with the idea of cycles of time, the body, and specific historical.s. The book features in the exhibition in an audio book version, read by the artist, creating a repetitive nonsensical narrative. This book is the most recent work Banner has published under The Vanity Press, the imprint she established in 1997 which deploys a playful, iconoclastic approach to publishing.
Fiona Banner (b. 1966, Merseyside) lives and works in London. Selected recent solo projects and exhibitions include SS19: The Walk at DRAFx: An Evening of Performances, o2 Forum Kentish Town, London, UK (2018); SS18 Runway AW17, De Pont Museum, Tilburg, Netherlands (2017); Buoys Boys, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, UK (2016); Scroll Down And Keep Scrolling, IKON Gallery, Birmingham and Kunsthalle Nuremberg, Germany (2015-2016); Wp Wp Wp, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2014); Mistah Kurtz - He Not Dead, PEER, London (2014); A Room for London, with David Kohn Architects and Artangel, Southbank Centre, London (2012-13); Harrier and Jaguar, Tate Britain Duveens Commission (2010), Tate Britain, London.