• First Open | Post-War and Cont auction at Christies

    Sale 12724

    First Open | Post-War and Contemporary Art | London

    29 September 2016, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 93

    Fiona Banner (B. 1966)

    Breakpoint

    Price Realised  

    Fiona Banner (B. 1966)
    Breakpoint
    silkscreen print
    70 7/8 x 95 5/8in. (180 x 243cm.)

    Executed in 1998, this work is number three from an edition of ten


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    Vivid red words cascade down a vast white page, growing closer together and tougher to read. Letters are truncated by the framing edge, leaving the narrative incomplete; meaning is lost as the eye follows the rows of text from edge to edge, and is swallowed by the letters’ increasing density. Fiona Banner’s Break Point (1998) is a typically adroit instance of the artist’s play with the limits of language. Her ‘wordscapes’ – large-scale text works that recount the plots of feature films – paint a thousand pictures; particularly concerned with our fascination with violence and the numbing of our critical faculties, she often retells scenes of action and war, exploring how societal attitudes are constructed by the framing and narrative devices of fiction. For her epic work The Nam (1997), she published an unreadable 1000-page tome relating in minute detail the Vietnam war movies Apocalypse NowBorn on the Fourth of JulyFull Metal Jacket, PlatoonHamburger Hill and The Deer Hunter; the present work subjects a chase scene from the movie Point Break to similar treatment, its reversed title punning on the artist reaching the semiotic breaking point of language, as well as the film’s car-crash speed and intensity.

    In Banner’s own words, ‘BREAK POINT is kind of a fast painting … It describes the chase scene out of the Bigelow film POINT BREAK (1991). I was thinking about a few things concerning that picture. In actual fact, what happens eventually is that the picture plane gains this recessive space to it, which is different to the other, similar “pictures” that I’ve made. And the reason it has that space is because of the way the letters drift and become compressed. So I was thinking … in terms of painting, obviously, and landscape, obviously, and in terms of this being a very fast painting; all this stuff about the lines on the page becoming lines on the road and it ending in this kind of text crash. It’s impossibly, unsustainably fast. So that’s why it’s written in this hazard red. The space suggested visually in the painting is distance, and the painting is about how fast it takes to cover that distance and the unattainability of that gesture, of even considering the possibility of doing that. And it’s this particular chase, because, well, the chase is so ridiculously great that when it’s translated into words it comes this kind of shaggy-dog story, you know, the opposite of keen imperative momentum. No. it’s because in the end Keanu gets Swayze. He’s there within his range and instead of shooting him, he lets him get away – his choice’ (F. Banner, quoted in P. Staple, ‘Fiona Banner Talks to Polly Staple,’ Untitled, Autumn 1998, No. 17, p. 6).

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    Provenance

    Frith Street Gallery, London.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2000.


    Literature

    F. Banner, ‘Break Point’ in Tate: The Art Magazine, no.14, Spring 1998, pp.59–64.
    M. Ellis, Fiona Banner, Tate Gallery, London, Art Monthly, Issue 220, October 1998.
    Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbesmuseum Eindhoven, Cinéma: Contemporary Art and the Cinematic Experience, 1999, p. 41 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p.43).
    Dundee, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Banner, 2002, p. 112 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 10-11; 32-33 and 105-106).
    R. Roberts, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York, 2007, pp. 178 and 275 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 178).


    Exhibited

    London, Tate Britain, Art Now: Fiona Banner, 1998 (another from the edition exhibited, unpaged).
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, State of the Art: Recent Gifts and Acquisitions, 2000 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 50/50: Audience and Experts Curate the Paper Collection, 2011 (another from the edition exhibited).