TV Room V 1997 is a large landscape-orientated oil painting, almost square in its dimensions, that depicts in a highly realistic manner an interior containing a television set positioned in front of three rows of seating. The work takes a frontal perspective on the space, which is painted in muted blues and greys with the exception of a bright white wall at the back of the room. The television sits on a stand in the centre of the composition with its cable stretching to a wall plug on the left hand side, while a shelf in the upper left corner appears to hold additional electronic equipment. Thirteen leather seats arranged in three neat rows face the television, and behind it are two sets of windows with the curtains half-drawn revealing glimpses of darkness outside suggestive of a night-time scene. Various reflections are visible on surfaces throughout the painting, including on the polished floor, the ceiling, the windows and the television screen.
This work was made in London by the British artist Paul Winstanley. It is the fifth of six paintings in the TV Rooms series that he completed between 1991 and 2000. The first three paintings in the series, which were made in 1991–2 while Winstanley was artist in residence at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, and Kettle’s Yard gallery in Cambridge, depict in slightly different tones and colours a room with a television on a stand in the corner facing rows of seating. TV Room IV 1997 offers a more brightly coloured version of the same space featured in TV Room V, with orange curtains and yellow and light blue chairs, while TV Room VI 2000 shows a starkly lit, windowless interior with a large column at its centre and a television on a stand affixed to the wall.
In a conversation with the curator Charles Esche in June 1992, Winstanley explained how the origins of the TV Room series exemplify his wider practice:
When I have located a potential subject I can take dozens of photographs of that subject. Once I found the T.V. Room here in Cambridge for instance, I went back at least two or three times and rephotographed it. After seeing the results of those photographs I was able to select one image in the first instance which was an obvious candidate to become a painting. If I had only taken a small number of photographs the choice would have been limited and it may have necessitated some alterations to the image when transferring it into a painting. Because I had such a wide choice there was one image there that was absolutely suitable and required almost no change at all from photograph to painting. The decision making began with the choice of image in the first place.
(Quoted in Kettle’s Yard 1992, unpaginated.)
The space depicted in TV Room V may be seen as having an institutional quality, with its generic nature and cold atmosphere heightened by Winstanley’s use of dull colours and the absence of people. In a 2008 essay the writer and curator Andrew Renton argued that the TV Rooms series explores forms of spectatorship: ‘In the empty room the television … gives nothing away, but both the room and its framing as image are articulated towards it in expectation. But this is not a private, singular scenario. Were you to come here to observe, you too might be observed in your personal act of looking’ (Andrew Renton, ‘Deferred Landscapes: A View from the Threshold in the Paintings of Paul Winstanley’, in Artspace 2008, p.41).
Born in Manchester in 1954, Winstanley trained at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry (1972–3), Cardiff College of Art (1973–6) and the Slade School of Fine Art in London (1976–8). His early works were abstract paintings influenced by post-war American minimalist artists, but in the 1980s he began to paint buildings and interiors of an often nondescript or transitional nature, such as lobbies, walkways and waiting rooms. While his practice has predominantly focused on architectural interiors and exteriors, with his particular interest in modernism evident in works such as Walter Gropius’ Balcony 2002, Winstanley has also depicted natural scenery. The 1992–3 series Landscape consists of six paintings providing blurred representations of fields, and in 1999 he began the large and ongoing series Veil that includes etchings and paintings featuring trees seen through semi-transparent curtains.
This work was first shown at Tate Gallery in London in 1997 as part of an exhibition of six paintings by Winstanley alongside works depicting an office, a student lounge and a small lecture room. In 1998 it became the first work by the artist to be acquired by Tate.
Paul Winstanley: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge 1992.
Paul Winstanley, Paul Winstanley: Archive: Complete Paintings 1989–2000, London 2000, reproduced no.158.
Paul Winstanley: Threshold, exhibition catalogue, Artspace, Auckland 2008, pp.41, 64, 70, 72–3, 78–80, 83, 88.
Supported by Christie’s.