In ‘Shan’t Quit’, Narbi Price presents a series of paintings and lithographic prints of the locations of the Whitechapel, London, ‘Jack The Ripper’ murders of 1888, based on photographs of the sites as they are today. Using the forensic information from the time, Price was able to take photographs accurate to within 30cm of the exact sites, now variously car parks, schoolyards, loading bays, etc. There is no immediate indication to the viewer of the depicted sites’ histories. The only acknowledgement is that the works’ titles are suffixed with the victims’ initials in brackets – making it possible to decode the provenance of the locations. Once the viewer knows the history of the depicted site, the reading of the painting changes irrevocably. Price invites rumination upon the contrast between the histories of any given site and the mundanity of the experience of it – an effect heightened by the mediation of the painting process.
Price has a strong interest in the perceived histories of locations and how painting can question the understanding of architectural and pictorial space. He is particularly concerned with challenging the conventions of photographically derived painting both in terms of paint application and composition, and in blurring the line between the figurative and the abstract. From a distance the paintings appear photographic in their realism, but when approached dissolve into a combination of gestural, loose brushwork and hard edge, flat colour planes.
The series of prints presented signifies something of a shift in both Price’s approach to the drawing process and in sequential working. It is also the first time that he has revisited images previously used to make paintings to transcribe them into print. Produced at the Newcastle based Hole Editions print studio, the collaborative nature of working in lithography and the heightened familiarity with the images due to the length of time spent with them required by the process, imbues these prints with a technical assurance and thoughtful confidence.
Price’s use of disparate techniques and deliberately disharmonious compositions push the works to the point where they teeter on the edge of dissolution. His intention is to produce a subtly disorientating effect in the viewer – there is an awkwardness or sense of unease about the images, but it is not immediately obvious why.