She falls forwards and the skirt falls over her waist. Her breasts hang down in front. Her nipple nearly touches his leg then her arm comes forward and grabs…." That’s as far as Vogue can go with this quote, but you get the picture -in fact it is a picture, a "wordscape," by the British artist Fiona Banner, who has built a considerable reputation by filling up her canvases with free-wheeling, blow-by-blow plot descriptions off various mainstream movies. In a show that will open in February at the Murray Guy gallery in New York, Banner has turned her highly literate image-making to the cinema of pornography. The new work - very large, neon-bright, handwritten monotypes - is based on a recent American skin flick called Asswoman in Wonderland, which was loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But, as Banner tells me by phone from her London studio, "the true subject and the persistent subject is sex.".

In her wordscape based on the movie, Banner says "you have this very alluring image/text, very hard-core at times, so the viewer wants to read it but is embarrassed to read it. This is what I’m dealing with - something about the way sex is everywhere, behind everything, but never really overt until it is utterly overt in porn." Banner challenges her viewers, confronts them, bores them sometimes with her hypnotizingly monotonous texts. She thrills and thwarts with equal gusto - words pile up, thick and dense, almost impossible to read. In a piece from two years ago called Don’t Look Back (based of the documentary about Bob Dylan), the text runs in uninterrupted boldface Helvetica Black type across thirty feet of wallpapered panels. You feel frustrated standing in front of it. As Banner says, "you know the whole thing is there, but you can’t actually have it".

Banner, who is 34, was born near Liverpool, studied art at Goldsmiths, and has been a member in good standing of the Young British Artists ever since she showed The desert (1994-1995), a retelling of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. A few years later, she published THE NAM, a 1,000-page paperback that was an unedited account of six Vietnam War movies: Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, The Deerhunter, Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July and Hamburger Hill. A friend called it unreadable, which gave Banner the idea for Trance, a 20-hour reading of THE NAM available on 22 audio tapes.

Banner also developed a fascination with punctuation, specifically the period, of "full stop". She drew periods in graphite, in different typefqaces, and blew them up to nearly 2,000 times their size. She also made Strofaom sculptures of them (which were shown at the Tate). They vary greatlyt in shape from circles and ellipses to perfectly smooth ovals that suggest Brancusi. "I liked the idea that these marks were real characters in their own right" Banner says. At the same time, she was pursuing her current subject. "I started looking at all the most famous sex scenes in mainstream cinema" she says. "I realized there is no sex in mainstream cinema. It’s always very euphemistic and kind of embarrassing. Then I looked at quite a lot of porn. I wanted to try approaching sex in a more head-on way, and see what happened. Porn is immensely boring, but it’s immensely fascinating at the same time".
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Vogue: "People are talking About", the painted word
Dodie Kazanjian, January 2001, p.113