- Dexter Dalwood born 1960
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 2000 × 2500 mm
- Presented by the Tate Americas Foundation courtesy of Tamares Real Estate Holdings, Inc. in collaboration with Zabludowicz Collection 2019
Dexter Dalwood’s large-scale painting Old Bailey 2014 depicts an interior scene that is devoid of people apart from a swathe of long, bright red hair, rendered with black cartoon-like outlines, that emerges from behind a dark area at the left side of the image. The setting for the painting is a courtroom and the dark section that obscures the figure appears to be the dock. In the centre background of the composition is the judge’s empty chair, flanked by pseudo-classical columns topped with an imposing portico. The interior of the courtroom is represented schematically, its detail lost in a bleached-out, grainy effect reminiscent of faded newsprint. Areas of red and pink vivify the mainly black and white palette.
The painting’s title identifies the exact location of the courtroom: the Old Bailey is the common name for the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales in London, which deals with major criminal cases, mainly from within the capital. The distinctive red hair is that of former newspaper editor Rebekah Brooks, who was questioned at the Old Bailey in 2014 for her involvement in what became known popularly as the ‘phone hacking scandal’. A police enquiry had revealed that the national newspaper of which Brooks was editor – the News of the World – had intercepted the mobile phone messages of celebrities, politicians, members of the British royal family and other public figures. The resulting trial was ongoing while Dalwood was making this painting, and Brooks was subsequently cleared of all charges.
Old Bailey was first shown in an exhibition titled London Paintings at Simon Lee Gallery, London, in 2014–15, for which Dalwood produced a number of paintings whose subject matter dealt with disparate aspects of the city, from depictions of its cult music venues to cheap hotel interiors. Typically, Dalwood’s works depict imagined and constructed interiors or landscapes (usually devoid of figures) that act as memorials or descriptions of particular places, moments or people. They draw on an idea of ‘history painting’ as a genre and, like their antecedents, the quotations, allusions and references can be elusive and highly codified. Referencing and juxtaposing image and content, Dalwood weaves together personal, social and political histories with art history, popular culture and biography to produce new meanings.
Dexter Dalwood: Recent History, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Gallery, London 2006.
Florence Derieux, Martin Clark and Helena Juncosa (eds.), Dexter Dalwood, exhibition catalogue, Tate St Ives, St Ives 2010.
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