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John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982, Newport Street Gallery, March 2016

April 12, 2016

John Hoyland  Power Station Paintings 1964-1982

Newport Street Gallery

Newport Street

London SE11 6AJ

Tuesday – Sunday, 10am-6pm,  Free entry

Extracts from the free exhibition leaflet are below.

At the height of his productive powers in the period covered by this exhibition – 1964-1982 – John Hoyland was considered one of the most important artists of his generation, the subject of major surveys at the Whitechapel (1967) and Serpentine (1979) galleries as well as significant exhibitions in Europe and the US.  He progressed through multiple stages of investigation in his work, each of which can be seen on some level as a negotiation between the exercise of control and embrace of chance.  From early exercises in cool, hard-edge abstraction; through intense, large-scale acrylic stain works; to the interplay of solid, impassive geometric forms and explosive gestural marks; and beyond to later career works that embraced an expanded palette and looser, dynamic style.

John Hoyland, Paintings 1964-1982

John Hoyland, Paintings 1964-1982

Born in Sheffield in 1934, Hoyland attended a secondary art and craft school before ascending to the city’s art school proper in 1951.  In response to the catastrophic horror of two world wards, many artists in the post-war period were exploring the possibilities of non-representational art.  An assertion of human emotion, intellect and imagination in the face of moral desolation, such abstract was also borderless, international, rejecting specifics of language or geography.  This was largely beyond the awareness of Hoyland in Sheffield, however, where he received a stolidly traditional art education.  His first encounters with such progressions came in 1956 with a move to London to attend the Royal Academy Schools.  That same year he saw Nicolas de Staël’s abstracted landscapes at the Whitechapel, and, at the Modern Art in the United States exhibition at Tate, the work of the Abstract Expressionists.

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While the Royal Academy remained conservative, Hoyland threw himself into the intellectual artistic milieu that lay beyond, attending summer schools influenced by the Bauhaus, evening classes led by associates of the New York school, and bracing colloquia of the ICA.  Although the abstract works he submitted for his diploma exhibition were censured by the Academy, in 1960 Hoyland was already attracting critical consideration, becoming the youngest artists selected for the influential Situation exhibitions of 1960 and ’61.  Situation focused on large-scale, pure abstract works – including paintings from  a series by Hoyland exploring hard-edge geometry – that eschewed suggestion of landscape or representation.

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Following the 1967 Whitechapel show, Hoyland’s canvases were for a period dominated by strong rectangular forms.  In contrast to the fine, liquid acrylic application of the earlier paintings, the works that followed such as 17.7.69 saw Hoyland experimenting with paint texture and opacity, creating screen-like oblongs with a definites edge which occlude the view of gestural, often dripped marks behind them.  Between 1969 and ’73, Hoyland divided his time between the US and his recently purchased studio in the village of Market Lavington in Wiltshire.  In the early 1970s he produced a number of paintings distinguished by a palette of pale gold and plasterlike pinks that are particularly associated with Market Lavington rather than his New York studio…



Newport Street Gallery


 Hoyland met many of the Abstract Expressionists while on a travel bursary to New York in 1964, but it was perhaps the sculptural works of Anthony Caro – some ten years his senior – which had the more significant impact at this time…The use of dilute acrylic allowed Hoyland to create a dynamic between shapes meeting in washy blurred edges and those with hard, resolved edges, which when overlapped suggested depth of field and a hierarchy between the forms.  The us of intense, oppositional colours – notably reds and greens – contributed to the sense of objects approaching and receding with the pictorial space.

The body of work that came to be exhibited at his mid-career retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in 1979 and the works that followed immediately afterward, show Hoyland using a very broad colour palette, fingerpainting and even paper transferred to the canvas from sheets of newspaper…

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Barry Mitchell

April 2016




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