© The Artist


David Batchelor (1955 – )


Accession number
P/Commissioned work


I have been looking for the best and most varied colours in the city for several years. They are often not in the most obvious places, and they are rarely in the most elegant places. But there are certain shelves in ordinary supermarkets that are a great repository of vivid, intense and strange colours. They are the shelves devoted for the most part to cleaning fluids, to hair products, and to some sauces and fizzy drinks. I decided to buy a range of these beautifully coloured and finely shaped containers, take them to the studio and find out what, if anything, I could do with them. This is my usual way of working; sometimes it turns up something new, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a matter of trial and error. At some point I tried probing some containers with a fluorescent light and as I did the bottles glowed in an extraordinary and uncommon way. Eventually this led me to making ‘kebabs’ of eight to twelve bottles on a standard length fluorescent lamp, and leaning them against a wall. These works were titled Idiot Sticksand were first shown in 2003.

For me the series refers to some work by Dan Flavin but more to the group of Barre de Bois Rond made by Andre Caderet in the 1970s. The title Idiot Stickcame to me one day and it seemed right. I think I wanted to get away from the gravitas associated with the staffs of Moses, or Joseph Beuys, or Darth Vader.

Since then, I have adapted the same materials to other forms and shapes. The series titled Candellas and hung from the ceiling, each bottle illuminated from within by a single low-energy lamp. The first of these was made in Chile, where a chandelier is ‘candelabro’. The largest of these, Candella 7 used 450 bottles and lamps, and nine kilometres of cable. It hung for six months in a tropical palm house in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Fesdallasfollow a similar principle but are made in long lengths of festoon cabling that are wrapped around architectural features. The first of these was attached to the Festival Hall in London, 2006.

I am always looking for ways to make the familiar less familiar, to make the overlooked worth looking at, but without changing it very much in the process. This is not a new idea, but it is one that appears still to have some life left in it.

David Batchelor, October 2008