Press |  1970s | 

‘Review’ by Eddie Wolfram

Magnificence is not a word that readily springs to mind when talking about English painters, either past or present. Turner, possibly – yet it is the word that comes to my mind constantly since being confronted with John Hoyland’s new paintings at Waddington’s Gallery II.

It is the sheer physicality of this exhibition which makes the lasting imprint on the memory. Almost like great natural forces these paintings saturate the visual senses; this engagement with the spectator’s sensibilities, electrically charging responses, more usually associated with ritual or dance. The paintings make dialogue with you which is space-consuming, and the overall effect of the show is that the works, not the gallery walls, become the environment. It is quite remarkable because the colours Hoyland uses are out of a cosmetic, lavender-camp range; lilacs and roses predominate. Yet so acute is his control of the chromatic tonalities in each canvas that together such colours exceed their own expected and predictable potential.

These paintings feel monumental; structured, yet there is no apparent designed scaffold in them which has led to their realisation, amidst the urgency and splash of the pigment. Although superficially Hoyland’s technique might suggest all the action-packed engagement of the ’50s, more specifically it says a great deal for his awareness of exactly what still remains durable and valid in the evolving visual grammar of painting today as a meaningful language of human expression. The exuberance of these supposedly very advanced paintings propagates the case for continuing the act of putting paint on canvas as the most elemental activity for any kind of visual expression. Through well-educated experience, and considerable insight into what painting is all about, Hoyland produces work which is an authoritative synthesis of recent painterly trends. He is able to outstretch the Americans because he has got more behind him to talk about. He goes from strength to strength with each exhibition; painting as initially a physical act yet involving mind as well as bodily kinetics, with real insight into what has gone before and consequently what is likely to happen tomorrow.

[Review of Hoyland’s 1971 solo show at Waddington Galleries, London]

© Eddie Wolfram / Ink