Kevin Henderson - Zebra

9 November - 22 December 2001

Kevin Henderson

Kevin Henderson

Kevin henderson occupies an unusual place in Scottish Art. Firstly, he has for many years used 'actions' and performances to express and explore ideas; a practice much more common among artists working in mainland Europe. Secondly, he also uses the writings of authors and artists as starting points for ideas, or frameworks to which ideas can be related. thirdly, such ideas are conveyed and interrelated through his use of a wide range of of media; film (video and photography), drawing, painting, sculpture, writing, poetry, performance itself and combinations of these in the forms of installations. All could be found in this exhibition which mainly consisted of new and recent work but which covered the previous 14 years. Public readings, a performance and a discussion all took place as part of the exhibition.

In room 1, the novel Jealousy by Robbie-Grillet was a starting point for this installation. The book deals with relationships between characters staying in a colonial-style house, set in a banana plantation. In the work Now the Room is Empty, Henderson adopted the role of narrator; remote, as in the novel, to interweave thoughts conveyed using simple furniture, firebricks, his own poetry and documentation. In room 2, his walk from a hotel room in Paris to visit the tombstone of the Dadaist Tristian Tzara was recalled; and in room 3, a wishing well in the Black Isle in Ross and Cromarty, provided the context for an action and performance Shoeshine. Elsewhere in the exhibition, a large black floor sculpture Blazon evokes René Magritte's Surrealism and the language of dreams, whilst Marcel Breuer's Bauhaus designs were directly referenced in a drawing on paper made with graphite and shoe polish.

Describing Shoeshine which incorporated a railway sleeper, two stools and 364 photographs of the wishing well and surrounding trees, Henderon wrote:
" The Shoeshine is a form of labour that has a tendency to polarise our ideas about labour, about work. It accentuates notions of (skill-less) exchange within the market place; it also makes explicit our prejudices and aspirations in view of our ideas regarding labour. From another perspective, there are strong religious connotations. The Well is a place of ritual, within a predominantly rural agrarian community, but not far from the ever-spreading city of Inverness. The waters are understood by many to have healing powers. In exchange for the water that people drink from the Well they leave behind, tied or hung to trees, peieces of cloth, hats, shoes, tinsel, underwear. I understand this ritual (exchange) as a communal doing, woven through notions of social and political efficacy." 

The performance which took place throughout the day on Sunday 17 November, was documented and elements of it were later incorporated into room 3. This was Kevin Henderson's first major exhibition in Scotland.


Kevin Henderson was born in Chiangi, Singapore in 1963. He graduated from Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, and studied at Oregon State University, USA. In 1995 he took up a teaching post at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, where he has since worked as Programme Director of the Master of Fine Art course.

He has contributed to reviews, journals and published experimental and conjectural texts on the painter Pieter Breugel the Elder, and the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky -  in addition to texts about other artists working in Scotland such as Ian Howard, Derrick Guild, Lei Cox, Rebecca Milling, Paul Dignan, Cora Cluett, Leena Nammari, Graeme Todd, Arthur Watson and Gareth Fisher. 


Poetry Reading by Kevin Henderson and David Hopkins
Saturday 16 November, 2pm

Performance by Kevin Henderson
Sunday 17 November, 10.30am to 3.30pm.

Gallery Discussion
Thursday 21 November, 1pm to 2.30pm.

We wish to thank the following for their support of the exhibition:  The Scottish Arts Council; Fine Art Research, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design; Rayographics; Edinburgh; Inglis Allen, Kirkcaldy. For further information about the exhibitions or events, please ask at the reception desk or contact Inverleith House

All work courtesy of the artist.

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