Latham's work a rising currency

Click to follow
The Independent Online
John Latham is the flavour of the month in the British contemporary art scene.

He has a room to himself in the Tate's 1995 New Displays; the first monograph on his art, written by the art historian John Walker, was published by Middlesex University Press last week with a book launch at the Tate; and the Lisson Gallery in central London has mounted a spectacular display of his work in its "by appointment only" exhibition space.

The priciest work in the Lisson exhibition is the huge Great Uncle Estate (1960), at £90,000. It comprises 100 charred books, wire, nails, plaster, bonded hessian and paint on 10 adjoining hardboard panels. The arr-angement of charred books underlines the contrast between what is hidden and revealed to human consciousness. Different page openings are coloured red, blue, gold or grey. Depending on which are exposed, the whole work changes hue.

Books that are charred, cut up or sprayed with paint recur in Latham's work - concrete symbols of Western culture. He believes in the redemption of the human race through art and supports it with a scientific theory which, he argues, should replace quantum mechanics as the explanation of the universe. He considers the finest unit of creation to be a time- based "event" rather than a particle, enabling him to show the unity of past, present and future.

The Lisson has a display of these didactic creations, including Full Stop (1961), a black disc with slightly fuzzy edges sprayed on to a white canvas which symbolises the end of Western culture and a blurred vision of eternity. It is priced at £55,000. A more recent work is Planets (1992), mixed-media spheres stuffed with books and suspended from the ceiling, priced according to size at £5,000, £9,000 and £12,000.