Exhibition explores a crucial moment in the history of British Art
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Exhibition explores a crucial moment in the history of British Art
Installation view. Image courtesy of Leeds University Library Galleries.

LEEDS.- A new exhibition at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, explores a crucial moment in the history of British Art, a period where the influence of Abstract Expressionism in America was filtering across the Atlantic.

Curated by Anne Goodchild, The Expressive Mark traces the significant contribution to the development of British post-war art made by the pioneering artists exploring the abstract.

The exhibition explores the British artists who produced works on a new scale, embraced the possibilities of abstraction, and developed new signature mark-making techniques.

Exhibition curator Anne Goodchild said: “To the post war generation of painters a new freedom of expression was offered by renewed contact with continental developments. This liberation resulted in a wide range of individual responses which showed an ambition of scale and energy frequently expressed in visceral, gesturally directed artistic practice.”

“This exhibition seeks to showcase something of the diversity and dynamism of that practice.”

The exhibition highlights paintings from the University of Leeds’ own outstanding collection, alongside examples of British abstract art on loan from across the country. Artists on display include Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Gillian Ayres, Albert Irvin and Patrick Heron.

Highlights on Display:

Scaling Up

Albert Irvin’s 'Albion' is on loan for the very first time from the University of Warwick. Impressive in scale, Irvin’s piece measures in at over 4.2 metres wide and over 2.4 metres high. Through his large scale works Irvin looked to portray the thoughts, feelings and emotions in his life via the medium of expressive mark making.

Bringing Ayres Up North

A staunch favourite in the Tate Gallery, London, Gillian Ayres’ 'Distillation' makes a trip up north. Ayres was inspired by the work of the North American expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, however she found her own unique way of making marks and expressing her art on canvas, or in this case hardboard. She used everything from rags to pouring paint to express her themes of space, colour and balance.

Art that Makes Waves

Cornish artist Peter Lanyon looked towards abstraction to help depict the scenery around him. He was particularly interested in the space where things meet, such as where the sea meets the land. As the name suggests, 'Low Tide' demonstrates how Lanyon was drawn to the tidal movement of the sea. In 1962, in a lecture given for the British Council, he said ‘When you are close to the water, the horizon disappears. The surf comes in and undermines your feet. I am fascinated by this kind of unbalance, the feeling you have when you look over the edge of a cliff and turn your head to one side… In ‘Low Tide’ the (surf) is much calmer … there’s a suggestion of a figure – right down in the sea, in the shallow water. It’s a picture of sky and sea; there’s no land in it at all.’

Accompanying the exhibition is a new richly illustrated catalogue introduced by exhibition curator Anne Goodchild. It includes five in-depth essays authored by specialist researchers and curators, devoted to individual artists included in the exhibition. Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath, and curator of the 2010 Peter Lanyon exhibition at Tate St Ives, has contributed an essay on Peter Lanyon. Mike Tooby, an independent curator and Professor of Art and Design at Bath School of Art and Design, has written an essay on Brian Fielding. Tooby, in his role as Keeper at the Mappin Art Gallery in Sheffield, mounted the first survey exhibition of Fielding's work at the Mappin Art Gallery in 1987. Paul Moorhouse, independent curator and Chief Executive of the Anthony Caro Centre, has contributed an essay on Albert Irvin. Moorhouse is the author of 'Albert Irvin: Life to Painting' (1998), the only monograph currently in existence on the artist. Clare Nadal, Exhibition Assistant on the ‘The Expressive Mark’ exhibition and PhD researcher, has written an essay on Sandra Blow. Dr. Simon Marginson, Exhibition Assistant on the ‘The Expressive Mark’ and AHR post-doctoral research fellow at the University of York, has contributed an essay on Patrick Heron’s 'Camellia Gardens'.

Anne Goodchild is an independent curator, who was until 2007 curator at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, for over thirty years. She started her career there in a research post and finished as Senior Curator of Art for Museums Sheffield. During that time she organised and curated many exhibitions as well as being responsible for the collections. In the intervening years she has established herself as independent writer and curator. Her work has included curating the exhibition 'Towards a New Reality: the Art of Victor Pasmore' which was displayed at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham University, in 2016 and at Pallant House in 2017, and editing and introducing 'Dear Winifred', a selection of letters from the correspondence of Christopher Wood and Winifred Nicholson (Published by Sansom) in 2013. More recently Anne also curated the exhibition ‘Space through Colour’, a display of Ivon Hitchen’s work, which was on show at Pallant House in 2019, and was displayed at Djanogly Art Gallery in early 2020.

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