Royal Drawing School, London, February to March 2019
There's something pleasingly perverse about being taught how to see by a blind man, but that's precisely what Sargy Mann offers to do.
As with so much of my artistic education, it's my son Samuel who I've got to thank for knowledge of this extraordinary work and the man behind it. Samuel borrowed a copy, so gave me sight of, the self-deprecatingly named book 'Sargy Mann: Probably the Best Blind Painter in Peckham' and then took me to the Royal Drawing School show. The Drawing School's paintings were almost all completed after Mann had become completely blind. How this is possible - and that they are as they are, so luminous and lucid - simply beggars belief. But it's not a secret, since the book is in large part an autobiography of the loss of Mann's sight over many years, and is brilliantly complemented by his son's film of the artist at work; measuring, re-measuring, drawing with Blu-tack blobs, explaining what he's up to and ultimately filling his large canvas with intense colour. I read the book and watch the film... and still I can't conceive how he did it, what was going on in his head to make it happen.
I'm interrupting my thread of posts about the possible analogy between paintings and music to record visits to a few recent shows.
The Holburne Museum, Bath, February to May 2019
I want to like George Shaw's work more than I do. Given that I want to record places close to home - and that I want to do it in paint - makes me think that I ought to warm to his depictions of ordinary places. Given I'm of a similar age and background to Shaw, so instantly recognise the suburban Britain and 1970's imagery that he includes, makes me feel I should find him effortlessly accessible. Given that I too experienced a boyhood steeped in Christianity (low church protestant for me, Catholic for him) suggests I ought to intuitively appreciate the religious references in his paintings' titles. Even the fact that my teenage hobby of making plastic models meant I spent years enveloped in the smell of Humbrol paints (his chosen medium) suggests I might feel an affinity. But in the flesh the works were less than the sum of all these parts. I was disappointed how photographic the paintings were, how smooth and glossy (for some reason I supposed he'd use matt Humbrol paints). The pencil images copied from films, television and porn looked like drawings torn from the sketchbook of an accomplished 'A'-level student, assembled for no good reason... perhaps to allude to a specific time, but to what end? I guess the religious links, specifically to the Passion, underline the misery, or at least mortality, contained in much that Shaw depicts, but I think they're in danger of being gratuitous.
George ShawAsh Wednesday 8 a.m. 2004-05
Jonathan Jones in his five-star Guardian review of the show (07/02/19) suggests that there's 'hope in Shaw's vision,' that 'moments of redemptive promise' appear. He asks of a picture of a tree casting a shadow on a wall (above), 'Is that the shadow of Christ cast against a wall by a gnarled tree?' I'm tempted to say the answer is 'No. Why ever should I think it is?' But in this case I'm emphatically mistaken. A splendid little film ('George Shaw: An Introduction' by Jonathan Law, on YouTube) demonstrates a direct link between 'Ash Wednesday 8 a.m.' and William Holman Hunt's 'The Shadow of Death' (below). But (perhaps with a distinct lack of imagination on my part) I'm still left asking, 'So what?' In the film Shaw himself says the painting was 'a fairly literal translation of the (source) photograph in many ways,' before adding, 'I suppose I wanted it to move off from the Biblical narrative into a narrative which was much more general, not so much related to a kind of Christian thing but it was something to do with mortality and the trees though they look quite totemic and quite symbolic. I think they're quite apocalyptic in some senses.' 'He's utterly sincere,' says Jones, and this shines through in the unaffected delivery contained in Law's film . But I'm still left feeling mystified, and not in a good way.
William Holman HuntThe Shadow of Death1870-1873
I didn't buy the book of this show. Instead I got a catalogue from the National Gallery's earlier exhibition 'My Back to Nature'. This contains interesting essays about Shaw's past and about his techniques (I love the idea of him soaking everything up as a boy as he repeatedly visited the National Gallery sketchbook in hand, and envy him for it). The essays state, like Jonathan Jones, that the works are somehow freighted with great meaning: '(Shaw) does not make his landscapes on the spot... but prefers to select his subjects from photographs he takes, which he then copies in an apparently mechanical way. He never alters an image, keeping as close to the photograph as possible, but it is here that the transformation from fairly uninteresting and routine photographs to mysterious paintings loaded with unspoken symbolism happens' (p.11). I guess I just don't yet recognise the alchemy, the 'transformation', so the 'apparently mechanical' appears just 'mechanical'. On the Holburne's website it says, 'Don't Miss - George Shaw in Conversation with Mark Hallett'. Having stumped up my £12.50 general admission (online, no concessions) that's exactly what I did do: miss it. In the business of a busy week I simply forgot to roll up. I meant to see if I could appreciate what's going on, but blew the chance. I regret it, especially now that I've seen the little film. Sorry George.
Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory
Tate Modern, London, January to May 2019
By all accounts I ought to like Bonnard's work less than I do. This is an astonishing show. I'd always thought of Bonnard as a sort of also-ran twentieth century painter, but even if it's just because of its scale, this extraordinary exhibition seems to place him firmly up among the heavyweights. Until viewing it I knew Bonnard's work almost exclusively in reproduction through Nicholas Watkins' 1994 monograph. Also a tiny number of displayed works (for example an impressively proportioned 'Summer in Normandy' included in the RA's 2016 'Painting the Modern Garden' show). In contrast, here, gallery after gallery displaying fully one hundred paintings. I did my usual canter round it all before settling on a handful of paintings to have a better look at: a couple of landscapes, one big and one small, Marthe in her bath (of course) and a view out some French windows (of course). It got pretty busy, especially as the morning wore on, but I managed to make a few sketches to help me look. Laura Cumming (Guardian, 26/01/19) gives the show four out of five stars. She recognised 'too many mediocrities... jumbled among the masterpieces' and thought at least some of the landscapes 'flaccid'. I didn't notice it much. I found it all very exciting. I started and abandoned three little sketches before completing my first one: it took me a while to simmer down. Waldemar Januszczak doesn't like Bonnard much. His review (sub-titled 'brightness is not the same thing as brilliance') repeats Picasso's damning opinion ('a potpourri of indecision') which, half-remembered, is probably the source of my sense of Bonnard's supposed inadequacy. I understand the force of his criticisms ('Too many marks. Too many colours. Too little sense of direction.'). Bonnard's taken to task for not noticing historical events ('Two world wars come and go, but you’d never know it as he dabs away contentedly at his retirement art'), but is every artist required to pass political or social comment? (To be fair they're pretty big things to have overlooked.) But I can forgive much given the sense of excitement that this display engendered in me. The fact that the paintings were created away from the motif, from sketchy little drawings, with such a range of colours, these are the things that strike me. I've no idea how I can use that insight in anything I ever make but it'll bear some thinking about.
I'll take my first example of an analogy between the formal elements of a painting and of music in Ivon Hitchens' work, already referred to in the last post ('Music', 26/02/19). The distinctive formal feature in question is Hitchens' commonly used wide horizontal format. The reason for its choosing is said to be two-fold, a consequence both of the subject being depicted and of 'the demand of the picture itself, in purely aesthetic terms' (p.67 of 'Ivon Hitchens', Khoroche, 1990, Lund Humphries). Firstly, the motif's influence is felt because a landscape is typically viewed as a sequence of scenes taken in as the viewer's eyes 'range to left and to right'. A square canvas 'cannot be true to this visual experience' since this shape is seen all at once. That makes sense. By requiring the viewer's eyes to range over the wide-format picture Hitchens introduces 'progress', and a 'time element' (Hitchens' own words, ibid. p.67), both essential marks of a piece of music. (Presumably others who have painted narrower formats are capturing a different 'true' aspect of the visual experience with which they're presented.) So far so straightforward... So, what demands does the picture make? This is where the nonsense might well begin... Manifestly a picture makes no demands whatsoever; it has no agency. I'm entering the realms of metaphor within metaphor so would do well to tread very carefully... To ground the discussion I want to remind myself that I'm focusing on one key feature of Hitchens' paintings, i.e. their wide format. What does this specific feature offer the artist that might make its inclusion so compelling that it feels like a demand of the image itself (I presume that's what this talk amounts to...)? In essence the elongated format seems to require the placement of several scenes one beside the other, like a comic strip (though not necessarily read left to right). Because the viewer's eyes have to sweep across it, the painting is seen as a sequence that lasts some time which opens up other music-related possibilities. Khoroche again: 'A wider canvas allowed for several interrelated elements: space for forms to 'echo', for colour areas to react on each other; multiple perspective, and the division of the canvas into two, three or more sections setting up contrasts and counterpoint; control of the spectator's eye movement - the timing of the eye's progress over the canvas - what (Hitchens) called 'eye music'. (p.67)
Ivon HitchensHolbrook Pools no.1. 1938
Khoroche exemplifies what he means with reference to individual paintings. Of 'Holbrook Pools no.1' (above) he writes: 'there are three, if not four, vertical divisions of the canvas, giving as many different perspectives. The rhythm and direction of the brush strokes, the weight of the pigment and the deliberate placing of the different colour areas lead the eye in and out, across and back again, in excited exploration of all the harmonies and contrasts in the painting, while at the same time allowing it to absorb the atmosphere of a particular scene - boat, foliage and bridge' (p. 67).
Ivon HitchensWinter Stage, Moatlands Park, 1936
In a slightly earlier and less typical painting ('Winter Stage, Moatlands Park', above) Khoroche identifies similar elements: 'the canvas (is) divided vertically into three compartments, each offering two different vistas of varying depth for the eye to explore as it turns radially to look into the dark forest beyond the verandah windows... Hitchens orchestrates shapes and colours and highlights, controlling the movement of the viewer's eye over the canvas in such a way as to give aesthetic pleasure' (p.68).Like beauty (if it's not the same thing) 'aesthetic pleasure' is presumably in the eye of the beholder, so whether Hitchens' orchestration is indeed pleasing depends on things beyond his control. I might, for example, be so distracted by the distortions of perspective created by three scenes in one as to be unwilling to carry on 'listening'. I'm not, as it happens, and on the contrary find the representation of what must be a sweep in excess of 120˚ exciting. I've only seen the image in reproduction so I can only guess how that sense would be amplified if stood not far distant from a painting spanning fully 156 cm. (It's in the Tate collection so I might get the chance one day.) In conclusion, the wide format, it seems, opens up a space to push the viewer's eyes around which in turn offers echo, colour reactions, counterpoint, rhythm, harmonies and contrasts. More to think about there then...
I should avoid being unduly pedantic or literal about the analogy between viewing an image and listening to music (see previous post). It is, after all, a metaphor and not a direct correspondence. I can readily accept that there's something similar, which may be enough to make the comparison worth playing with. However, to unpack the formal 'relationships' seen in images surely requires some understanding of the terms used to describe the elements that they're said to contain. Machotka talks about relationships of size, colour, distance, balance and movement, plus patterns of tension and resolution. There's much talk about music in Peter Khoroche's discussion of Hitchens' paintings (some of it taken from Hitchens' own writing). The vocabulary here includes Machotka's terms but is far broader and includes counterpoint, rhythm, echo, harmony (linear, tonal and colour harmony, in fact), and melody. There's talk of 'progress' and 'time' (analogous to features in music). More prosaically: form, shape, tone, contour, light/shade, solidity, flat, direction, gesture, weight, dark/light, warm/cool, up/down, in/out, 'large sombre areas' contrasted with 'short quick notes'. (Hitchens set great store by balancing all these pairs of opposites in his paintings.) A convincing way to demonstrate understanding of the musical analogy would be to deploy some of these terms accurately; to recognise the presence of the various features in specific images, give an account of them and (best of all) explain their function or effect. And, if I can't do this myself yet, to amass examples in others' writings to begin to get the idea. So that's what I mean to do.
This post builds on the last, and picks up a couple of additional 'prior concerns'. Interestingly, the blurb on the back of Machotka's book identifies him as a professor of psychology and art. No surprise then to find discussions about the business of perception. Two ways of perceiving:'[There are] two ways of looking... [i] mechanisms of identification and [ii] processes of organisation... Organising processes include groupings and segregations of objects, the formation of a coherent sense of space, and the perception of meaning or expression [which] may precede recognition... [for a brief moment] we may register only color, size, tilt, curvature, and other properties... [Then there are] mechanisms of identification or recognition: of deciding what the thing is that one is looking at. They are schematic and require focused attention... we... need some sort of category or mental template, or schema, against which to judge the visual information available... Purely abstract paintings may be subject to a different process. Since there are no objects to identify, organisational processes should dominate from the start.' (pp.36-37) These ways of looking are 'rapid', 'require no specific attention', interpenetrate without our being aware of it', are even 'simultaneous' (p.36). They're certainly 'involuntary'. I'm puzzled about how to view, how to understand, and ultimately how to make images which are abstracted or abstract. So I think I'm most interested in the 'processes of organisation'. What am I actually doing when I look at a painting, especially an abstract one? Can I get better at it? How? An analogy: Reflecting on something as abstruse as perception is demanding. It's hard to describe processes that are involuntary, and essentially hidden. In this circumstance it's not unusual to resort to metaphor, to make things more accessible (in my experience gaining understandingis often little more than getting used to an idea, taming it by making it familiar). Immediately preceding his discussion of perceiving, Machotka compares the experience of looking at a painting to that of listening to music: 'in listening we respond to the formal relationships of its notes - its melody - at the same time as we grasp the words, and the response to the melody is normally the more deeply emotional one of the two. With paintings, the shapes and surfaces that we recognise as objects, come also to be seen... as relationships - of size, color, distance, and above all of balance and movement. Colors will be seen primarily in relation to each other rather than by themselves, and they, too, will create patterns of tension and resolution. Experiencing a painting formally has much the same aesthetic effect as feeling the tensions produced by changes of key, repetitions of themes, changes of instrumental timbres, or resolved and unresolved chords.' (p.36) I suppose it sort of makes sense, but the seductive attraction of the analogy - and also its danger - is the temptation to suppose that because the emotional impact of music is 'understood' (i.e. experienced) this in itself makes the so-called-similar visual experience 'understood' too, simply by virtue of being told that they're quite like each other. But this is not automatic. It's entirely possible to know that one experiences something (an emotional response to a song, say) without knowing how or why it affects you, and - with or without such insight - transference to a different context (e.g. looking at a painting) might be entirely spurious. Surely the differences between the auditory and visual experiences are at least as great as any supposed similarities? And how 'understood' is the musical experience anyway? This probably needs quite a lot of unpacking.
Back in early December I mentioned that I'd got my hands on a book about Cézanne (in a post entitled 'The Sublime', 02/12/18). Well now I've read the book. It's Pavel Machotka's 'Cézanne: Landscape into Art'. In it Machotka places examples of Cézanne's landscapes alongside photographs of the sites that he depicted. To feel the full force of Machotka's insights you'd need to know more than I do about others' interpretations of Cézanne's paintings, in particular ideas about the dominance of the formal qualities of his work with a consequent down-playing of the importance of the motif that inspired it. Without that preconception some of Machotka's ostensibly re-balancing arguments seem unsurprising. Having naively supposed that Cézanne was depicting real scenes more or less faithfully it can hardly come as a surprise to me to learn that he really was depicting real scenes more or less faithfully. To which fact, Machotka contends, the photos unequivocally attest. To put it bluntly, never having supposed that Cézanne was making stuff up I don't feel shocked to be told that he wasn't. That notwithstanding, it's a tension between 'vision' and 'invention' that lies at the heart of much that's discussed by Machotka, with his principal argument being that Cézanne managed masterfully to balance the two and not, as some have supposed, to lean heavily on invention. The opening short chapters of the book discuss this and other 'prior concerns'. These chapters are, for me, the best parts because they're the most general and most generative of ideas that might be transferred elsewhere. The 'prior concerns' include: The link between motif and painting: close or distant? Of landscape paintings that are only tenuously linked to their source Machotka says 'the canvas and the photograph [of the view] are too distant - perhaps just close enough for us to recognise the site - and we then fail to see how the one depended on the other. The site looks only as a pretext for painting, not as an invitation or an incitement. The painting continues to exist as an independent thing, not as the fruit of close observation and analytical thought' (p.9). I'd say by way of a couple of examples that this is true of almost all the works of Ilse D'Hollander and some of Ivon Hitchens. The observation suggests a continuum of images, ordered by the strength of the link between view and painting, from close to distant. Currently, I probably sit uncomfortably near the prosaic opposite, where 'canvas and... photograph appear only as alternative visual records... (where there is) little evidence of the painting as a process of selection, of emphasis, of incorporation into the painter's way of seeing' (p.9). To avoid which I'm tempted, for good or ill, to try to edge towards greater abstraction, albeit emphatically not at the expense of letting go of what's really there. This last is not a criticism Machotka levels at Cézanne: 'Although his treatment of a motif is always more interesting - integrated, whole, passionate - than the motif itself, it is a reconstruction based on attentive analysis' (p.30).
Ilse D'Hollander's landscapes (see previous post) are probably at the limit of abstraction that I currently find interesting. I see the same sort of qualities in Ivon Hitchens' paintings, many of which I enjoy very much. Maybe Hitchens' later stuff goes a step further, by virtue of its heightened, unrealistic colours: I think I struggle when the connection with the observed world becomes stretched too far. For example, Peter Lanyon's paintings intrigue and exercise me, but I'm not sure I like them. (That's not to say I dismiss abstract (as opposed to abstracted) work... I do like much of what I know of Mark Rothko, Gillian Ayres, Howard Hodgkin... and I loved Albert Irvin's RWA show (see 28/12/18). But that's a different thing, and one that I'm not minded to attempt in my own work.) I'm currently enjoying some painting tuition by Michael Weller at The Colour Factory in Winchester. I've been to two of the six weekly sessions so far, both devoted to still life. A refreshing feature of Michael's teaching is his willingness to offer something concrete by way of technique. Though I'm not seeking to mimic him I'm perfectly content to go along as closely as I can with his instruction, in order to understand his approach from the inside and take from it as much as possible. The content is not new to me, but no less crucial to learn (again) for all that:
a belief in the importance of accurate drawing, and thus the need for careful measurement and a determination to persist, correcting and re-correcting as required
the prioritising of tone over colour, so an intial laying in of the extremes of thin darkest dark and fat lightest light at the outset
careful attention to matching colour to observation, mixing paints for a long period of time if necessary, and offering up a sample (on newspaper scraps) to check before (ideally) thoughtful and confident application
the unimportance of detail, so an exclusive reliance on thick brushes.
Michael's good-humoured insistence that this is what we do, his conviction that we will find it difficult (hence the need to take frequent breaks), his expectation that we take an unfeigned interest in the subject matter (what we make is unlikely to please anyone if we're not interested in what we're painting), these are additional underpinning attitudes that I warm to. Underlying it all though, it seems to me, is a conviction that the world - specifically the little bit that's in front of us as we paint - deserves our undivided attention. It's entirely fitting therefore that, on Instagram, Michael summarises his artistic activity with no more than the unassuming 'Paints from life'.
Colour Study (1): Three Red OnionsOil on cardboard, 175 x 235 mm
Colour Study (2): Three Red Onions Oil on cardboard, 175 x 235 mm
I've written elsewhere: 'I’ve been trying to figure out what part landscape painting might have in contemporary practice. Or whether by doing what I’m doing I am, in fact, barking up the wrong (because thoroughly dead) tree.' Andrews ('Landscape and Western Art') has a view on this: 'As a phase in the cultural life of the West, landscape may already be over.' If, however, there are contemporary artists actually making landscapes then it may, as a matter of fact, not be all over. What small knowledge I have of art history leads me to believe that the announcement of the death of several genres (portraiture, figuration, painting itself) has sometimes been premature, so I'm not without hope. I concluded an earlier post ('Politics', 09/12/18) by asking 'Who is making landscapes these days?' I'm definitely on the lookout for these people. The acclaimed Tacita Dean says she does it, as does Turner Prize winning Charlotte Prodger, but I've yet to look at their work seriously. My initial uninformed reaction is to say that I don't immediately 'get it'. I guess I'm still hoping that there might be painters and printmakers out there. George Shaw calls for my attention (I inadvertently picked up a small catalogue of his in a charity shop some time ago, so warmed to his work before I knew it mattered). Also, there's a host of amateur artists (e.g. my Instagram chums) whose motivation, at least, I'm inclined not to dismiss, if only because I suspect it's the same as mine. I'm being helped in my search by my son, Samuel, who knows a thing or two about paintings. He's given me the catalogue of a current show by Ilse D'Hollander. Some of her works, made in the early to mid-90's, are abstract with more than a hint of landscape and some are manifestly landscapes, albeit abstracted. Do these paintings that depict places receive a thumbs-up from the contemporary art world? Well, yes they do. The fact that the Victoria Miro gallery is representing D'Hollander makes that point clearly enough, as does the reception of (for example) the Observer's art critic, Laura Cummings, who clearly rates the show saying nice things like: 'Small, calm and balanced, these landscapes are exceptionally beautiful,' and 'It is the romantic tradition – emotion recollected in tranquillity – reprised for modern times,' and again 'The world, and the way she sees it, are fused in these dense sonnets'. So here, at least, is an example of landscape painting hanging on in there.
Ilse D'HollanderUntitled, 1996
D'Hollander's paintings have much to commend them. The gallery's take on what she did is clear enough: 'In her short life, Ilse D’Hollander (1968–1997) created an intelligent, sensual and highly resonant body of work that continues to find receptive new audiences in the decades since her death. This exhibition, the gallery’s first solo presentation of D’Hollander’s work since announcing its representation of the artist’s estate, focuses on the rich dialogue between abstraction and representation in her work, giving special attention to the ways in which she coaxed evocations of place, light and weather into her modestly-scaled canvases and works on cardboard.' Images of real places they may be, but rather more than that, too, it seems.
Ilse D'HollanderUntitled, 1996
The tension between abstraction and representation is always interesting to me. The business of employing ambiguity, but incorporating enough that's recognisable, is what I want to explore, I think. My work is barely abstracted at all - and then quite clumsily I fear - but it's undeniably this territory that D'Hollander occupies and this that captures my attention. Laura Cummings recognises the same when she says the works 'invoke the countryside... in all the rich greens of spring and summer', when she says they are 'as if remembered through both weather and time,' and (without ambiguity) when she declares: 'Each image leans towards abstraction, but is deeply rooted in reality.' That's a key feature: rooted in reality. Nothing free-floating here.
Some miscellaneous thoughts prompted by the text of the catalogue for the RWA's Albert Irvin exhibition, or pertinent quotations extracted from it: An earlier post ('Synthesis', 01/12/18), discussing Rubens' Het Steen landscape, noted the desirability of somehow incarnating values in a painted image. The American artist Robert Motherwell, quoted in the preface to the catalogue, picks up the same point and enumerates some options: 'Venturesomeness is only one of the ethical values respected by modern painters. There are many others, integrity, sensuality, knowingness, passion, sensitivity, dedication, sincerity, and so on which taken altogether represent the ethical background of judgement in relation to any given work of modern art.' This is an imaginative and thought-provoking list. I'm sure I'll return to it. On abstraction: 'A lot of abstract paintings are made through looking at things, and the artist can be torn in terms of loyalty to the original - the issue of a painting originating from, for example, a landscape, but not looking like it in a direct way.' (This puts me in mind of Terry Frost's early series of paintings, 'Walk Along the Quay'.) And then, more in tune with Irvin's mature work where all reference to any motif is absent, and speaking of the influence of the American painters: 'All was changed, changed utterly... and above all, that the 'content' or 'subject' of a painting could be its own formal structure, its shapes and colours and their disposition over the canvas surface; it was that 'space' in a painting could be lateral as well as - or instead of - recessive; that a painting was part of the world, not merely a picture of some aspect of it.' This is a concise description of 'pure' abstraction. It applies as much to the later work of Terry Frost, and that of Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson (for example), as to Albert Irvin.
Terry FrostWalk Along the Quay - three of a series of the same name, 1950's
About the primacy of making: '...Irvin was told... that he must not teach more than three days per week... (and have) more time each week in the studio... and importantly, paint under my fingernails.' It seems to me that when you stop making you become an ex-artist. And further, of personal involvement: 'The brushed mark was a core communicative element for Irvin. It acted as a signifier of the presence of the artist and the decision-making taking place... (He said,) 'It's important that the mark on the canvas is the mark I've made.' Finally, in an interview between artist-colleague (B) and the exhibition curator (S) an exchange about the joy in Irvin's paintings: 'B: ...I don't think there are any black clouds in his paintings. By that I mean, I don't think there is any angst in his paintings. S: Yeah, they are very celebratory paintings. B: Yeah, and I think once he'd identified that, in his head it became much clearer. S: Oh, that's interesting - you think it took Bert a while to find that, and be confident about it? B:...I think the spirit of the painting he wanted to make eventually became clearer, and somehow he identified the idea of making an image that was joyous and optimistic.' And, elsewhere, on the same theme: 'After years of exploration, a visual opulence emerged to stand as testament to his belief in the essential and enriching power of the visual arts... he found ally in Matisse's principle of an art of '...the joyousness of springtime, which never kets anyone suspect the labours it has cost.''
It was a delight to read the typed artist's statement prepared by Albert Irvin for a publication or exhibition. It's winningly self-deprecating and witty: 'I hardly think that the ragbag of digs and pokes that I have had at life and that it has had at me could be graced by the name of "career", so I find it very difficult to write an account of what it has been to date, or a prophecy of its development in the future. There was never any time since I can remember that I didn't want to be a painter and the opportunity to study painting first came to me in Northampton during the war. This was interrupted when I was dragged unwillingly into the Royal Air Force, where I wasted a valuable chunk of my life as the undistinguished navigator of a Beaufighter crew. On release from the Air Force I resumed my painting studies at Goldsmith's College Art School in London, trying during four years to learn something of the elements of my art, and realising, on leaving, how little one learns as a student and how much is left to be learnt for oneself in the dedicated ritual of one's own studio. I have, at one time or another employed most of the idioms current in the language of contemporary painting in an attempt to build for myself a means of self-expression both personal and capable of communication with anyone interested enough to be a spectator of my work. I show my work wherever and whenever I can and sell it to any noble soul who'll buy it. This happens too infrequently for comfort so I am obliged to teach, one or two days a week. I like teaching; it can be aggravating but on the whole I like it. And it gets me out of my studio for a bit, which is a good thing. I have no plans for the future. The future is a series of jerks from one painting to the next, each one sowing the seeds of its successor." Brilliant.