Auerbach & Hoyland

I feel very lucky to live in proximity to London and to be able to participate in study days.  It wasn’t until lunch that I realised the study leader was Gerald Deslandes who presented the lecture on feminism, this time last year.

Damien Hirst’s Newport Street gallery, 25 minutes from Waterloo, through a labyrinth of residential estates, is in the back of beyond, but once there, is a joy.  A former theatrical storage facility, it is substantial, light and well designed.  The work on show was another matter.

I like John Hoyland’s work, so was eager to see the exhibition, but the collection, Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982, (Hirst’s own), did not feel like the best Hoyland had to offer.  Arranged by period the larger rooms on the ground floor house the earlier work, bold blocks of colour, with the emphasis on edges, a feeling of that’s how it is, reminiscent of the American Colourfield painters of the fifties and sixties.

The ‘pink confection’ room came as a complete shock.  Works known as 25.1.71, 5.3.71 and 23.2.71 were produced at Hoyland’s then recently purchase studio in Market Lavington, Wiltshire, rather than his New York studio, and the difference is astounding.  Gone is the dark, industrial palette, the straight lines, the bold shapes, replaced by works in creamy pinks festooned with ‘confetti’ colours and strokes.

In the final room Hoyland returns to his bolder palette with landscape type works, reminiscent of Diebenkorn.

I am reminded of the BBC documentary Artists on Film: Scenes from working Lives – John Hoyland, where artist angst is clear for all to see.

The Auerbach at Tate Britain was a gem.  Again themed by period, from the 1950’s to the present day, but this time the experience was very different.  Far from being held at arm’s length by Hoyland (those specific works or the man himself?), I felt part of Frank Auerbach’s personal journey.  Again progressing from the darker works of the 1950s and 60s, with their impasto surfaces through to the joyful Mornington Crescent – Early  Morning 1991.

The passion, the energy, the sheer hard work was evident, yet at no time did his work feel reminiscent.  Yes, the history of David Bomberg and the Borough Group was evident, as with Leon Kossoff, and the references to the old masters could be spotted, but his hand, and only his hand was clearly applying the brush strokes.  Of particular note were the powerful charcoal drawings, a constant throughout his career and the

Head of J Y M II, 1984-5

All life is lived in this stunning work.

Finally, the visit wouldn’t have been the same without the insightful guidance of the hugely informed Gerald, who as a gallerist, was able to offer a dynamic perspective on the works.


Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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