Please click to read a free online catalogue of
this exhibition, including an essay by Mel Gooding
Seven from the Seventies brings
together the work of seven influential abstract painters from the
decade, featuring Colin Cina, Bernard Cohen, Noel Forster, Derek
Hirst, Michael Kidner, Jack Smith and Richard Smith.
Each demonstrates a reductive and disciplined
articulation of the sensations of light, form, sound, colour and
space. Their mutual rejection of expressionism for an
ordered, procedural and systematic approach to painting opened up
new possibilities for future formal experimentation within abstraction.
During this period, all seven artists were at
the height of their artistic careers, exhibiting in important solo
and group presentations internationally and at major British
institutions including the Tate Gallery, the Institute of
Contemporary Arts, The Hayward Gallery, the Serpentine Gallery and
the Royal Academy, London. With prominent roles in British art
schools as well as international professorships, their ideas
impacted upon a generation of artists.
Michael Kidner's translation of the dialogue
between order and indeterminacy into a visual language has meant
that his work, though founded in a rigorous intellectual approach
to colour and form, also resonates emotionally: 'Unless you read a
painting as a feeling,' he has said, 'then you don't get anything
at all'. Column No.2 In Front of Its Own Image
(1972-3) systematically records the grid or lattice formed by the
movement of a three dimensional object in space, itself a solid
representation of the intersection of two wavy lines. Exploring the
complex effects achieved by the arrangement of simple elements
according to a set of self-imposed rules, he generated "visual
metaphors for the opposing manifestation of order and disorder in
nature" (Irving Sandler).
Also concerned with the systematisation of
natural forces, Noel Forster's colour fields made up from 'nets' of
interwoven colour refer to the energy of which all light and matter
are composed. In Untitled 1974 (1974) space is described
through the dense overlapping of coloured line, each band of colour
producing a distinct radiant quality.
Bernard Cohen has described himself as"A
storyteller and a creator of pictorial theatre". His tensely
wrought and unpredictably complex pictures hold a unique position
within the canon of contemporary art. Composed of textured
applications of layers of paint and interwoven arrays of lines and
forms, Cohen's Resting Place (1974-75) represents a
complex and vibrating geography, where the artist's exploration of
the borderland between order and chaos is evident.
Challenging the structural properties of the
canvas and its support, Richard Smith's Maryland (1972) is
an example of works that pushed the boundaries of traditional
painting into a third dimension by building extensions. Smith
produced these works on a large scale, alluding to the
monumentality of the billboards that surround the landscape of America.
The diverse paintings of Derek Hirst are uniform
only in their insistence on dramatic shifts of emphasis and
advocacy of a radically transforming visual language. The style of
his work permutated from precisely calculated, hard-edged colour to
a luminous blending of surfaces and tones. Hirst's Summer in
1975 (1975) connects the image to its own material substance
in an expression of both form and space, replicating the
rectangular shape of the canvas in painted bands of gradually
Recording the composition of sonic alongside
optical experience, Sounds and Silences No.4 (1970) by
Jack Smith demonstrates the artist's use of the formal properties
of hieroglyphics and jazz musical notation. Developing new systems
of arbitrary signs, Smith created visual form for both the sound of
music and the spaces in-between, inviting his works to be 'heard'
as well as seen. With an attitude that still resonates today, Jack
Smith is quoted as saying:"I've heard it said that painting is
finished, not to my way of thinking. Abstract painting is still in
its infancy; there is so much left to explore."