Denzil Forrester

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Denzil Forrester
Born1956 (age 62–63)
Grenada, Caribbean
EducationCentral School of Art;
Royal College of Art
Known forArtist

Denzil Forrester (born 1956) is a Grenada-born artist who moved to England as a child in 1967.[1] Previously based in London, where he was a lecturer at Morley College,[2][3] he moved to Cornwall in 2016.[4]


Born in 1956 in Grenada in the Caribbean, Denzil Forrester moved to England when he was aged 10.[2] He attended the Central School of Art, earning a BA degree, and was one of only a few Black artists to gain an MA in Fine Art (Painting) at the Royal College of Art in the early 1980s.[5] Since then, his work has been widely shown in many exhibitions.[6] In 1983, he won the Rome Scholarship, and subsequently received a Harkness Scholarship that enabled him to spend 18 months in New York City.[2]

He has also been the recipient of two major awards at the Royal Academy Summer Show,[7] including in 1987 the Korn/Ferry International Award.[2][8] His paintings are in the collections of Freshfields, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, and the Walker Collection, Atlanta.[9]

Notable exhibitions in which Forrester has participated include From Two Worlds, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1986, and Dub Transition: A Decade of Paintings 1980–1990 (1990).[10] In 1995, he organised and curated The Caribbean Connection, exhibitions and cultural exchanges around the work of Caribbean artists.[11][7] The exhibition held from 15 September to 13 October 1995 at the Islington Arts Factory (where Forrester's studio was located)[12] featured Ronald Moody (from Jamaica), Aubrey Williams (Guyana), Frank Bowling (Guyana), John Lyons (Trinidad) and Bill Ming (Bermuda), with the catalogue providing a "Historical Background Sketch" by John La Rose and Errol Lloyd.[11]

Forrester's recent exhibition, From Trench Town to Porthowan, at the Jackson Foundation Gallery in Cornwall from 26 May to 23 June 2018, was a retrospective curated by Peter Doig and Matthew Higgs.[13][14]

In 2019, Art on the Underground commissioned Forrester’s first major public commission, a large-scale artwork titled ‘Brixton Blue', to be on view at Brixton station from September 2019 to September 2020.[15]


In common with other early Black British artists, such as Tam Joseph and Eugene Palmer, having been born in the Caribbean and brought up in the UK Forrester reflects in his paintings a duality of cultural influences; as John Lyons observed: "Denzil's respect for tradition is a manifestation of the will to find an identity within two cultures, Afro-Caribbean and European, for both have played a vital role in his process of maturing as an artist."[16]

Eddie Chambers has characterised Forrester's work as ranging from "dark, brooding and sometimes menacing works, through to bright, liberated paintings resonating with bright and vibrant colours",[5] his subject matter encompassing the atmosphere of nightclubs and of carnival, typically using large-scale canvases to produce paintings that critic John Russell Taylor has called "distinctive and unmistakable".[10][5] Together with its depictions of street scenes and social commentary about city life,[17] particularly dealing with the racial tensions of the 1980s in the UK,[1][18] Forrester's work has been described as "a series of historical documents related to the making of Black Britain".[10][5]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Foundations of Fame, The London Institute

The Caribbean Connection, Islington Arts Factory (15 September–13 October)

  • 1990: Rome Scholars 1980–90, Royal College of Art

Denzil Forrester: Dub Transition: A Decade of Paintings 1980–1990, Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston (22 September–3 November)[10]

Figuring Out the 80s, Laing Gallery, Newcastle —Painters at the Royal College of Art, 150th Anniversary Show

  • 1987: Royal Academy of Art Summer Show
  • 1986: From Two Worlds, Whitechapel Gallery, London (30 July–7 September)[10]
  • 1985: Six Artists in Action, Madeleine Pearson Gallery London


  1. ^ a b Niru Ratnam, "Denzil Forrester", in Alison Donnell (ed.), Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture, Routledge, 2002, p. 117.
  2. ^ a b c d "Bio", Denzil Forrester website.
  3. ^ "Life Drawing & Painting" Archived 2015-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, Morley College.
  4. ^ Joshua Surtees, "Artist Denzil Forrester: 'When I tell people I’ve moved to Cornwall they say, "Why, there are no black people there!"'" (interview), The Observer, 12 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Eddie Chambers, Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s, I.B. Tauris, 2014, p. 80.
  6. ^ "Exhibitions", artist's website.
  7. ^ a b "Press release: Quad", The Gallery in Cork Street.
  8. ^ "Denzil Forrester: ‘You have to find your niche’", Tate, 2 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Corporate", Denzil Forrester website.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Denzil Forrester", Diaspora Artists.
  11. ^ a b "The Caribbean Connection", Diaspora Artists.
  12. ^ "Islington Arts Factory", Diaspora Arts.
  13. ^ "Peter Doig To Curate Grenadian British Artist Denzil Forrester Exhibition", Artlyst, 19 April 2018.
  14. ^ Joshua Surtees, "Artist Denzil Forrester: 'When I tell people I’ve moved to Cornwall they say, "Why, there are no black people there!"'", The Observer, 12 May 2018.
  15. ^ "Brixton Blue". Art on the Undergound. Transport for London. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  16. ^ John Lyons, "Denzil Forrester's Art in Context", catalogue essay in Denzil Forrester: Dub Transition: A Decade of Paintings 1980–1990, p. 20. Quoted in Chambers (2014), p. 83.
  17. ^ Andrew Hughes, "Denzil Forrester Paintings", Visual Arts Archive, Southampton, the South Coast and London 1985 – 1989.
  18. ^ Henry Love, "Denzil Forrester & Tam Joseph: Cries Against Injustice in a Racially Divided Britain", J'ai-fame, 18 December 2009.
  19. ^ "Denzil Forrester: A Survey" (25 April–29 May 2019), Stephen Friedman Gallery.

External links[edit]