Published  05/01/2009

Come back, Roger Hilton: a bas, Dumas!

Come back, Roger Hilton: à bas, Dumas!

There slipped through Cambridge last August a well-assembled small exhibition of the work of the late Roger Hilton, something of a leader amongst the later St Ives painters, and vocal with it. He died relatively young, in 1975, having turned down a key retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London, mainly because he disapproved of the building. For Hilton, anyway, the time -frame was not right in terms of his style. His starting point was the human figure. Which takes us to the extraordinary continuing ascendancy of the American/South African painter Marlene Dumas, currently showing through February 16 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. For her all the commercial stops have been pulled out, to sustain this ascendancy. Her inarticulate dull figures, such as in ‘Measuring your own Grave’ (2003) are limpid and indeterminate, yet wallowing in a conceived guilt for all humanity (which catches the mood of today). Hilton’s work, by contrast as with his ‘Dancing Woman’ (1963) pulses with human energy, and this is something of a masterpiece. Hilton at his masterly best.

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