Sharp Reliefs

Donald Urquhart at Maureen Paley and Herald Street

Donald Urquhart’s playful black-and-white drawings owe their genesis to London nightlife, his first works conceived as flyers for The Beautiful Bend, a King’s Cross nightclub and cabaret he co-founded in the 90s with friends Sheila Tequila and DJ Harvey. Now an internationally exhibited artist, the former club kid (and friend of Leigh Bowery) is mounting a collaborative dual exhibition in London this month, with new works hung simultaneously on the walls of Maureen Paley and Herald St (from April 17). His latest offerings include illustrations for a new edition of William Makepeace Thackeray’s monolithic novel Vanity Fair, to be released by Four Corners books this September. These focus exclusively on the book’s antiheroine, the ruthlessly selfish—yet somehow utterly charming—Becky Sharp. “I wanted to sideline all the secondary characters,” says Urquhart. “It’s a real bore when she’s not in it. The way that I’ve done it, the chapters she’s not in, there’s no pictures.” The Vanity Fair illustrations are accompanied by large-scale “instructional diagrams” and a series of self-portraits. Is there a connection between the artist and Thackeray’s Sharp, then? “I can see a bit of a hollow, cold-hearted approach sometimes,” he jokes. “But I don’t think I’m as daring or as calculated as Becky.”

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