Thursday, 7 June 2012

New Art for a New Age

New Art for a New Age: Optimism in Post-War British Abstraction, at Leamington Spa Art Gallery.

The 1960s heralded the arrival of an optimistic new age in British art, fuelled by the drive for economic prosperity and social change. This led to an invigoration of British art by facilitating a move away from figuration. The experimentation with new materials which had recently become available due to advances in technology was another reason for this change. The center for this became St Ives where artists came together to forge a new cultural identity.

The main concern -  the experience of looking rather than recognising.

Barbara Hepworth, Spring, 1966 (bronze, paint and string)

"For me, the whole art of sculpture is the fusion of these two elements - the balance of sensation and evocation of man in this universe".

Patrick Heron, Four Vermillions: April 1965, (oil on canvas)

Heron believed that the success of a painting comes from a fundamental harmony of form and colour.
The paint surface of this painting is very smooth, with very little evidence of brushstrokes. This heightens the impression of flat space in which form and rythm generate powerful effects. In 1956, following the emergence of American Abstract Expressionists,  he turned exclusively to abstract painting adopting large fields of colour which Mark Rothko had made a distinctive feature of his work.

"It is obvious that colour is now the only direction in which painting can travel", he declared in the 1940s.

Terry Frost, Ginger and Purple 'Chirpy', 1966, (oil on canvas)

The oval shapes of the painting allude to the natural forms of the Cornish coastline and recall the shapes and colours of the evening sun.

John Hoyland, 1:3:66, 1966, (acrylic on canvas)

An open-ended title, allowing the viewer to give his/her own interpretation of the painting.  The elongated coloured shapes appear to float in the vast green background. Stripped of any extraneous detail, Hoyland wanted to re-examine the expressive possibilities of abstraction.

Peter Sedgley, Looking Glass Series, No. 2, 1966,  (screenprint)

An exploration of the concept of optical illusion, heralding the beginning of the psychedelic period in 1960s Britain. In a similar spirit to Bridget Riley they capture a new abstract way of seeing.

Like other members of the emerging Op Art movement, Sedgley was fascinated by optical sensations produced by intricate geometric patterns and pulsating colour contrasts. He describes the circle as 'anonymous' because it is a familiar and homogeneous shape.

Barry Flanagan, heap 4 '67, 1967

A number of coloured, sand-filled hessian sacks draped over one another and resting directly on the floor. Flanagan here proposes a work of art capable of change, contesting the notion of sculpture as a fixed mass.

Sarah Kent, Orthian 1, 1966, (acrylic on canvas)

Simple geometric shapes totally eliminating representation.

Jeremy Moon, Green Chariot, 1965, (acrylic on canvas)

Uniform colour with other coloured rounds and ovals just peeping in to view at the corners. The diamond format gives it a sense of offstage. His use of the recently available medium of acrylic paint gave Moon the chance to create a large expanse of bold colour, with barely visible brushstrokes.

Bridget Riley, Untitled, (Winged Curve) 1966, (screen print)

Exploring ideas of visual perception and illusion as in all her work, Riley undermined the idea of a static canvas, producing a destabilising effect on the viewer, kinaesthesia.

Robyn Denny, Light of the World, 1970,  (screenprint),  

Are we invited to step inside, fabricating a virtual doorway at the threshold of the work, and up the geometric steps?

The interlocking, coloured forms float against a large expanse of  monochrome pigment, implying a step into imaginary space. Inspired by science fiction and advances in space travel during the 1960s, Denny's work manifests a preoccupation with virtual inhabitation.

Berhard Cohen, Glow, 1965 (acrylic on canvas)

Pulsating tension across the canvas that changes according to the viewer's position.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty good for a local gallery in a provincial town. I like the hoola-hoop