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‘John Hoyland: New Paintings’ by John McEwen

John Hoyland is king of the castle as far as freely handled abstract painting goes in this country, and reminds us of the fact with his latest exhibition. No one here mixes colour and technique with more style or assurance. Hoyland holds unapologetically to the mainstream, the international current of this kind of art, steering in this exhibition, as in his last, closer to the European than the American tradition. There is colour palette-knifed on as thick as butter in the manner of de Staël in the Fifties a suggestion of totem figures out of Miró, scumbled noses/mountains reminiscent of Hoyland’s German near contemporary, the 47-year-old Horst Antes, and so on.

The work shows an increased variety, while continuing to display the greater freedom and apparent ease of method that seem the unconscious result of his having moved to a larger studio. Titles conjure moods and memories. As usual there are glamorous and easy to appreciate paintings like the green and black ‘Kilkenny Cats’ (somewhat similar to the work that won him the John Moores Prize last November) and slower, less beguiling ones like the murky ‘Whispering’. The overall effect, however, remains one of transition, most obviously illustrated by his tinkering uncertainty with motifs – particularly a recent and irresolute blob of a circle.

[Review of new work at Waddington Galleries, London]

© John McEwen / The Spectator