London Lantern

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3 Generations at Sarah Myerscough Fine Art

05/02/2008, By

Reader Rating: 2.8 from 1347 votes


In a recent article, Peter Blake likened Abstract Expressionism to Damien Hirst's spin paintings, where paint is simply poured in a completely arbitrary way. On reflection this is a somewhat flippant statement that underestimates the sensibilities of this mainstream art movement. Moreover he goes on to comment that Hirst has 'pretty much brought the two main branches of abstract painting to a conclusion'. This is an assertion that the 'Three Generations' exhibition will challenge and thereby conclude that gestural painting is still a force to be reckoned with in contemporary art.

Although diverse, the visual vocabulary of Hoyland, an established Royal Academician, Stewart, a mid-career painter, and Francis, a recent RA schools graduate, is as considered and relevant in Contemporary art as it was when abstraction was first conceived. Gottlieb, Rothko and Newman stated that ‘There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing. We assert that the subject is critical."

Indeed what can abstract painting be without a subject or intention? Hoyland was described as a visual poet by Mel Gooding - with titles such as ‘Place of Miracles’ and ‘Love and Grief’ you can appreciate the analogy. There is poetry in his work, as with loaded symbolism and harmonised composition he conveys his impassioned relationship to the real and sprit worlds. Likewise Francis considers similar notions, but with a less structured preconceived approach to painting.

It is the act of painting and the physicality of paint that provides a gateway to philosophical notions of phenomenology; a state of being that the artist visualises through his painting. Stewart’s canvases reverberate with a similar structured spontaneity. Rosenberg suggested that ‘what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.’ For Stewart this is especially relevant, as the event becomes visual theatre infused with autobiographical references.

This exhibition compares how the ‘subject’ translates into imagery over this generational period. Instantly, the pure invention of mark making is apparent, as fresh tides of paint leaps out of a Francis canvas to embrace the viewer with a playful sense of vitality, or interlaced gestures vibrates in a Stewart painting with a spectacular array of sprayed, splattered, poured and drawn marks. Then compare both to the imposing and well-orchestrated Hoyland images, where one single motif shimmers over a deep pool of infinite luminous colour. The viewer will be enticed by such emotive passages of paint, responding to a way of communicating that is not recognisable in a conventional sense but is more intuitive; living the artists’ experience and their relationship to the time in which they belong.

When fashion dictates that we avoid direct emotional commitment to the subject, these three speak out. The legacy of Abstract Expressionism lives on, as vital, honest, pure and above all inventive as it ever was. Through the physicality of the paint; saturated, splattered, poured, piped, twisted and squeezed, emerges an image, a spectacular metaphor of our emotive response to the world around us.

7th to 29th March
Sarah Myerscough Fine Art
15-16 Brooks Mews
London W1K 4DS
+44 (0)20 7495 0069
Monday to Friday: 10 am to 6 pm
Saturday: 12 pm to 3 pm

Image 1 - Andrew Stewart
Image 2 - Anthony Francis

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