OCA Study visit to Hoyland and Auerbach 16th January 2016
I recently visited the “Magnificent Obsessions” exhibition at Sainsbury Centre (http://scva.ac.uk/art-and-artists/exhibitions) Whilst I shared Damian Hirst’s gory fascination with medical models, I was surprised to find that the piece to which I had the strongest reaction was his piece of work based on butterflies and beetles. It made me angry in a way that my mild nature doesn’t usually experience. A hijacking of something that wasn’t his I think.
Damian Hirst isn’t usually on my radar, so strange that only two weeks later I found myself in his Newport Street gallery on an OCA Study visit to see the work of John Hoyland.
Gerald Deslandes was a most excellent guide to the work and asked good questions to get us all thinking deeply about what we were seeing. I began to relate to the work downstairs but the show really took off for me on the upper floor when textures were introduced and the colours moved from very flat primary/secondary to pastels and tertiary mixes, and the shapes and layers became far more complex. I found it enjoyable that the paintings were trying to depict industrial landscapes and textures. We considered how Hoyland was a child of his time and had access to types and ranges of colours not previously available.
A recent article in The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/29/john-hoyland-review-damien-hirst-newport-street-gallery) didn’t rate the exhibition but I found the work in the last two rooms especially very exciting. It was reassuring to hear why and how some others also responded to the work. I learnt new names eg Barnett Newman – whose work I have looked at since I came home; it doesn’t affect me in the same way.
Our afternoon visit was to the Auerbach exhibition at Tate Britain. Here again colour and texture were the themes although subject matter was more representational and included figures as well as buildings. I really enjoyed drawing the early pictures, and realising how simple and angular his compositions were.
Having spent the morning looking at very flat work, the globules of paint that built up to create shadows of their own were very different. The influence of Walter Sickert was visible in early colour scheme. Like Hoyland – Auerbach’s work made use of complementary colours, patches of red and green used to make work vibrate, and he also became more complex over time. I liked his work of the 70’s and 80’s – the pastel like street scenes showing huge energy. I enjoyed his mastery of wide brush strokes – a bold streak of colour gave the impression of abstract, but when you analysed the colour and direction, they were just right to convey a roof, wall, chimney and build up a street scene.
I was intrigued by the 2000’s room – the style and colour seemed hugely different. At first I thought he must have changed locations, but in the end concluded that the effects of age and the change in the types and colour ranges of paint available compared to the early days, probably accounted for the difference. Portraits in charcoal and chalk were completely different: quivering wobbly lines instead of the strong angles of earlier days, but no less masterful in capturing the character, and maybe that is what happens to us too as we age.
This was a most enjoyable visit. It was good to meet new friends and to catch up with one or two that I had met on previous study visits. We had an interesting discussion over lunch about copyright and blogging (hence my choice of photos for this blog – and not the inclusion of works seen, which are all available online anyway). I loved the environment of the Newport Road gallery – and the stunning staircase, even as I had concerns about the vast amount of art-earned money that must have provided it. Gerald was extremely knowledgeable and I increased my art vocabulary in ways that I wouldn’t have done studying on my own. I thought that “Syntematic “ was one, “the relation of parts to the whole” but I have been unable to find it in a dictionary and after searching around have concluded it must have been “Synectics” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synectics)and “palimpsest “ – on top of, putting something onto a given surface, to describe the building up of layers.
I went on this as a Printmaking 2 student, nearing the end of my course and looking towards painting and printmaking as the main skills to take into level 3. I could relate Hoyland to print very easily, but it has made me think more deeply about how I could achieve some of the Auerbach influence in my prints. Overall the visit was a good choice to inspire and enthuse. Thank you Gerald, very much.