Big Rock Candy Fountain, by Batchelor measures 10 x 5 m and has been created using bent scaffolding and 3000 fairground lights. The lights have been sequenced to appear as a cascade, and to run off one 3 pin plug. The LED lights are low energy, and have been used on his most recent illuminate colour works.
Batchelor's work is concerned with urban/synthetic colour; as colour appears or has been manufactured in the city. This kind of 'bruised colour' is from found objects, plastic readymades in the city. He takes these found things and gives them new symblism; new meaning and forces the viewer to readdress a familiar entity.
Where do you find colour in the city? Colour is not evenly distributed or universal like a watercolour, it is found in pockets. Batchelor finds colour mostly in supermarkets: in cosmetics, cleaning aisles, fizzy drinks. He gets most of his inspiration from finding something, and then appropriating that device. This can be easily seen in his chandelier series; one of which he hangs 25 individually lit orange and green watering cans.
Once he has an idea, the next step is to challenge how big it can go until he feels he is sickened by the idea and it must be resolved. The largest series was commissioned by Bloomberg and involved 500 bottles, 500 lights and 500 cables (amounting to an estimated 10 km of cables) with 500 plugs. This epic installation was relocated to Edinburgh Palm House and suspended from a balcony.
How did Batchelor get into colour? In the 1990s he was painting and creating very white neutral sculptures until he realised the art school trend for magnolia works was paramount. He could not understand the aversion to colour. He started by attaching colour panels to readymades to enhance the difference between front and back; facade and support. He used transparent plastic over colour to imitate that glossiness and brilliance of colour when you first open an tin of emulsion.
The human eye can distinguish over 15 million different hues, yet most languages only have 11 crude terms for colour: black, white, grey, red, yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, pink, and brown. He wanted to expose the limits of language. Colour is seen to be lower than other workings of the mind. Colour is seen to be feminine not masculine, oriental not western, primitive not civilised, infantile not adult, and kitsch rather than sophisticated. Therefore, colour has been displaced from the central ground of culture.
In addition, colour is seen as supplementary, cosmetic, and an after thought. It is deemed as an enhancement which is deceptive and used as concealment. It does not draw out the truth, it seduces. Colour, like pain cannot be rendered into language, i.e if you are hit by a rock, is the pain in the rock? This logic can be implied to a red tomato. We know the colour is not in the tomato, just as we know the pain isn't in the rock. This made colour all the more intriguing for Batchelor.
Batchelor started using recycled readymades, such as shop dollies and neon shop signs and filling them with colour horizontally and vertically.
He was drawn to rectangles as he found complex shapes detracted from colour. His next step was to go bigger, he took his light boxes to the Saint Paolo Biennale. He has always been influenced by South America, in particular Brazil and early 20th Century Abstract art. He finds that illuminated colour spils out of the work - in reflections. He finds illuminated colour compelling, however, he feels he has done all he can do. He now wants to do an 'unplugged' show using plastic objects. For him plastic is brilliant: bright, and cheap. Things don't have to be clever to have a complex effect.
David Batchelor looking up at Big Rock Candy Fountain, at Archway