Born in Jamaica and growing up in Birmingham, Palmer moved to London to attend Wimbledon School of Art before completing the prestigious Goldsmiths MA course in Fine Art. At Goldsmiths, Palmer’s initial focus on abstract expressionism evolved into figuration; the University’s penchant for postmodernism, as well its theory-driven approach to making, infused the young artist’s painting practice. In the intervening decades, Palmer’s work has been enriched by myriad influences and experiments; always, it has insisted on its initial (intoxicating) combination of concept and craft.
Palmer’s most frequently painted subjects are people. Sourcing images from life (family albums), pop culture (magazines, websites) and beyond, the artist begins with a photograph before passing it through his painterly filter. Occasionally, his work incorporates elements of collage — photos from various sources spliced into one tableau — or reproduction, wherein the artist will subject one image to multiple iterations. Sometimes, a colour will be switched between versions; in other cases, it’s the artistic process itself that, via replica and repetition, is subject to conceptual investigation.
Circling themes of identity, Palmer’s painting invokes other lenses of mediation and meaning too — specifically, those applied by human beings to one another, delineating communities and prescribing an insidious hierarchy. Drawing on the experience of being immersed in British culture while remaining symbolically outside of it due to the colour of his skin, Palmer deals deftly with issues of race and representation all while resisting didacticism. Animated by the artist’s own subversive oeuvre, Palmer’s subjects (often painted at larger than life-size) are free to encounter their audience as well as be encountered by them.