Friday, 30 May 2014

Robyn Denny, 1930 - 2014

Robyn Denny, Baby is Three, 1960
Robyn Denny died on 20 May 2014.
Robyn Denny was a significant figure in the development of post-war British abstract painting. In David Mellor’s judgement, “For eight years between 1961 and 1969, Robyn Denny painted what are arguably some of the most accomplished abstract paintings made in Britain in the twentieth century.” He is best known for his geometric abstractions of the 1960s and 70s. In 1973 he was the youngest artist to be given a retrospective at the Tate. His dedication to abstraction, however, meant that he became increasingly unfashionable and, together with contemporaries such as Richard Smith, all but disappeared from public view. (In an interview, entitled ‘The Invisible Man’, Richard Smith recalled: "Robyn Denny keeps saying, 'Our time will come, Dick. Our time will come.' And he's been saying this for years and years.")
As a student in the 1950s (St Martin’s, 1951-4, RCA, 1954-7), Denny belonged to the first generation to be influenced by the American Abstract Expressionists, principally through exhibitions at the Tate (1956 and 59), and shows by Pollock (1958) and Rothko (1961) at the Whitechapel.
Denny’s early work was characterised by gestural painting and typographical abstraction. The apotheosis of the latter was a mural commissioned for Austin Reed (‘great, big, wide, biggest’) in 1959.
In 1960 Denny was a key player in the organisation of ‘Situation’, an exhibition which responded directly to the scale and innovation of the American painters. The criteria for inclusion in ‘Situation’ were that paintings should be ‘abstract (that is, without explicit reference to events outside the painting) … and not less than 30 square feet.’ All accounts report that the exhibition was poorly attended, but the label recurred in ‘New London Situation’ at the Marlborough Gallery in 1961 and in an Arts Council exhibition, ‘Situation: an exhibition of recent British abstract art’ in 1962.
The paintings of the 60s were typically, large-scale paintings featuring geometrical forms, suggestive of doorways, with flat planes of colour in precisely adjusted, usually, muted colours. Later work changed the emphasis from vertical to horizontal and included areas of brilliant colour. In 1981 Denny moved to Los Angeles and made paintings which were typically monochromes out of which outcrops of scratched, coloured marks would emerge.
Read obituaries by Jeff Amos and in The Telegraph.
Robyn Denny, Home from Home, 1959
Robyn Denny, Austin Reed mural, 1959
Robyn Denny, Track 4, 1961
Robyn Denny, Out-Line, 1962
Robyn Denny,Life Line, 1963
Robyn Denny, Glass 2 From There, 1971
Robyn Denny, Head On 2, 1975
Robyn Denny, Windward Steam and Angel Dust, 1984 -87
Appendix: some images associated with Denny
Gordon House, catalogue cover design for 'Situation', 1962
Sylvia Sleigh, Portrait of the Situation Group, 1961. L to R, back row: Henry Mundy, Gwyther Irwin, William Turnbull, Peter Coviello; centre row: Gillian Ayres, John Plumb, Peter Stroud, Robyn Denny, Roger Coleman, Bernard Cohen; front row: Gordon House, Lawrence Alloway
Howard Hodgkin, Mr & Mrs Robyn Denny, 1960

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Julian Opie: Collected Works - The Holburne Museum, Bath

Julian Opie, Marina in a Purple Shawl
Julian Opie: Collected Works is at The Holburne Museum until 14 September 2014.
Julian Opie's distinctive portraits - including the blinking woman, above, some painted busts made with a 3D printer and an LED peeing boy - are exhibited here alongside works from his personal collection including Japanese prints, 17th and 18th century paintings and ancient sculpture.
Read article by Mark Brown and listen to interview on Front Row (20 May- starts at 19mins 47 secs.)
Julian Opie, Imogen, 2013
Julian Opie, Keith, Mechanic, 1998
Julian Opie,  Reed 1, 2012
Julian Opie, Peeing Boy, 2012
Julian Opie, Aniela at the spring, 2011
Cornelis Jonson, Portrait of Unknown Gentleman,1636
Jean Marc Nattier, Portrait of Unknown Lady, (between 1710 - 1766)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Bernard Frize: Colour Divides - Simon Lee Gallery

Bernard Frize, Mescali, 2014
Bernard Frize: Colour Divides is at Simon Lee Gallery until 24 June 2014.
Bernard Frize turned to abstract painting at the end of the 1970s constructing compositions determined by elaborate sets of rules. For each series of paintings Frize employs a different technique. The work is resolutely un-expressive and un-representational: it is about the essence and process of painting itself.
This exhibition features work which derives from a painting Frize made in 1986 on the ceiling of the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The pictures also have a theme of 'doubling' - "Each act of doubling is specific, enacted sometimes within and sometimes between works. Some among these paintings become pairs, while others are divided and doubled within their confines, cut in two, painted twice, superimposed, above and below." (Simon Lee Gallery)
Looks like a great show.
Read article by Karen Wright.
Bernard Frize, Mascile, 2014
Bernard Frize,  Ariemi, 2014
Bernard Frize, installation view Simon Lee Gallery, 2014
Bernard Frize, installation view Simon Lee Gallery, 2014
Bernard Frize, installation view Simon Lee Gallery, 2014
Bernard Frize, installation view Simon Lee Gallery, 2014

Friday, 23 May 2014

John Bellany, 1942 - 2013

John Bellany, Male and Female Figures Chained, 1968
John Bellany died on 28 August 2013.
A forthcoming memorial tribute exhibition to John Bellany at Beaux Arts Gallery (5-28 June 2014) has belatedly alerted me to his passing.
The Scottish artist's distinctive, expressionist paintings were (at their best) drenched in a dour, Celtic mythology mixed with Calvinism and rooted in the lives of fishermen; his vision was for much of his life fuelled by alcohol and seemed to channel the spirits of Beckmann, Bosch and Kokoschka. My selection of paintings is taken from the 1960s and 70s when his work was at its darkest - his palette subsequently lightened considerably.
Read obituaries by Janet McKenzie and in The Telegraph.
John Bellany, The Fright, 1968
John Bellany, The Obsession, 1966
John Bellany, Star of Bethlehem, 1965
John Bellany, My Father, 1966
John Bellany, The Kilnlochbervie, 1966
John Bellany, Mizpah, 1978