Beaux Arts, London
30 March–7 May 2011
By SAM ROSE
The catalogue begins with a quote from Hoyland on “Confronting Rothko’s Legacy”. The similarities are easy to see, with the eye drawn through the densely textured surfaces to linger around the internal depths of the canvases; emphatically not an art of two-dimensional design, but of a world of abstract shape and volume; “he painted zones of reality … Independent of signs, space existed before the beginning of form but retaining feeling as a living reality.”
But something rather British, almost pop, remains in these works, as if unable to take itself quite seriously enough to fully commit to Rothko’s mystical side. In each work – take When Time Began (Mysteries 11) for example – as the eye tracks around the three-dimensional depths, here following round the submerged black behind blue lines that ring the top half, it is suddenly jerked upwards by the exuberant explosion of a circle of opaque paint seconded in relief with more squeezed directly from the tube (here red in the bottom right corner). The sudden shock of these is almost comic, a reminder that this is not a new reality, just the physical stuff of paint on canvas. At the same time, however, the eye is led back out into the painting by the thinning splatter of opaque paint, which, as it gets smaller and smaller blends back into the main body of the work, and eventually leads into the depths again.
This tracking between surface and depth is fundamental to the experience of these works, and is one reason why they read so differently – in a sense so inadequately – in reproduction. Seen closely there are a strange multitude of surfaces and depths, created as the opaque, matt, gloss metallic and translucent paints are interlayered and spattered over one another (The metallic, the matt thinned acrylic, and the plastic-like pure acrylic all read as successive levels of upper ground). In some, such as Throw the Dice, the depth even appears in the thick opaque patches themselves, as the impasto blobs are streaked with swirling lines of other colours that seem to draw the eye around and in yet again.
Ultimately reaction may depend on how one feels about the pretensions, and the gentle probing of these pretensions, that underlie such works. Even just to hold multiple modes of paint and painting together in a single canvas is difficult, and while the initial result may be jarring, given time the experience could be said to be all the richer. Downstairs there is a small Hoyland work on paper from many years ago, though: more solid, with the rectangular shape not quite dissolved, but with hints of what’s to come, a nice reminder of earlier times.
Through the works of Frank Bowling, John Hoyland, Reginald Sylvester II, John Golding and Sam Gilliam, this small group show explores the visceral, emotional, and physical side of their process and the power of their abstract painting
Jos Tilson – interview: ‘Motherhood is a form of creativity, and one which I totally believe in’
Tilson has combined the ancient craft of hand-weaving with the language of modern art alongside an obsessive approach to sculptures in clay. She talks here about Italy, her passion for architecture and what’s wrong with the #MeToo campaign
John Hoyland: Stain Paintings 1964–1966
This, the first New York exhibition of John Hoyland’s work in 25 years, brings together seven of his monumental stain paintings along with works on paper. Don’t miss it
This group exhibition, including work by Josef Albers, David Annesley, Anthony Caro and Hélio Oiticica, provides an interesting, if limited, survey of 1960s abstract art and its legacies, and suggests a few intriguing connections
John Hoyland: Power Stations: Paintings 1964-1982
Damien Hirst’s impressive new gallery opens with a sensitively curated show of one of Britain’s most renowned abstract artists