Thames-Side Studios Viewing Room

Darren Coffield, Black Rain: The Ballad of Charles and Di
Preview: Friday 28 September 2018, 6.30-8.30pm
Exhibition Dates: 29 September-14 October 2018

Darren Coffield’s Black Rain series (1996-2018) is a neoclassical body of work that serially develops a set of images in seven stages, through a progression and investigation of artistic language and mark making. There are over 100 works in ink, charcoal and oil on canvas, as well as a further body of associated and exploratory works.

This presents a first opportunity to view one of these images, The Ballad of Charles and Di, through all the stages of its serial development from its inception in 1996 to the most recent version in 2018. The Black Rain works have been largely unseen; two of the drawings were exhibited at Turner Contemporary in 2009.

Each work is a composite image derived from a group photograph of royal or presidential dynasties, overlaid on a classical painting, typically Poussin’s 17th century depictions of mythological or Biblical scenes. The Ballad of Charles and Di is a composite formal grouping based on Lord Litchfield’s photograph of the fairy tale wedding of Prince Charles & Lady Diana and Poussin’s masterpiece, The Triumph of David, in Dulwich Picture Gallery.

The mythologising of ‘family’, such as the Royal Family, is part of the language by which dynasties retain power. In a fusion of classical and modern mythologising, Coffield creates allegorical parallels and juxtapositions, some intended, some not. In the case of Diana, the mythology and lie of the family and the allegory of David taking on Goliath is clear: ‘Black Rain’ can also be read as ‘black reign’.

Coffield is taking two histories and making a new one, remarking: “A composition of movement and mass, the dynamic of solid blocks moving against each other, of history moving against itself – that’s how history is made.” The convergence and juxtaposition of imagery creates both parallel and multiple realities, a new kind of history painting.

These are not easy works (the imagery in The Ballad of Charles and Di is probably the most identifiable in the series). The rain-like mark making creates a surface tension over the expanse of the picture surface that is fundamental to their hermetic nature; a tension also between the discipline and restraint of the surface and of underlying geometries, and the bacchanal held within; of the suppression of fiercely romantic temperaments, of psychological undercurrents contained within a stoical and rigorous system of working.

Poussin noted to his biographer that, more than just imitate, “artists must work with their minds, that is they must think out in advance what they want to do”. The Black Rain series, in its entirety, validates Darren Coffield as a prolific artist of originality and curiosity, always looking forward.

Text: Yseult Nash

Thames-Side Studios Viewing Room is located on the ground floor of Unit 8.

Entrance to Unit 8 is via The Atrium. Turn left upon entering the main site, walk through The Atrium turning to the left, to find the exhibition located between studios TB-10 and TB-09. For more information email

Viewing Room, Unit 8
Thames-Side Studios
Harrington Way, Warspite Road
Royal Borough of Greenwich
London SE18 5NR