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America, Does it Exist?

© courtesy of the artist and Maureen Paley, London. Photo credit: British Council Collection

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In a letter dated June 1987, the artist wrote 'Let's not talk about what the painting means but instead about how it might function, which may or may not lead us to some kind of meaning. The rubbing together of disparate or apparently unconnected elements, images, words, creates, one hopes, unsuspected and unpredictable meanings. Of course, I always have a particular direction in which to aim, but aiming with clarity is not so easy these days – clarity might be fiction caught sight of out of the corner of one's eyes.' Durward then goes to quote approvingly, with reference to this painting, J. G. Ballard's definition 'a science fiction is seen in the form of dreams set in real time', and continues 'So what is the fiction or reality behind the Chinese girl with the stigmata? Is it a confirmation or denial of the fact that American does indeed exist when one has never seen it? How do we see America? Both these girls are transparent and bleeding … The figure of the Chinese girl with the stigmata creates a shocking conjunction between two disparate cultures, making a statement which, while clearly a fiction on one level, by the strength of the double negative on a symbolic level has a certain reality.

British Council Collection





oil on canvas


H 183.5 x W 168 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased from 369 Gallery, Edinburgh, 1986

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British Council Collection

Visual Arts, Arts Group, 10 Spring Gardens, London, Greater London SW1A 2BN England

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