1970s | 

‘Subtle Barriers’ by Anne Seymour

If John Hoyland’s red and green pictures glowed, then over the last few years he has released the damper and sent the flames roaring up the chimney. Colour has exploded everywhere in sloshy lumps and scattered bits.

He is currently having his second [sic, it was his third] show of this sort at the Waddington Galleries, in Cork Street, and it is even more splendid than the last. Four twelve and fifteen foot landscape-shaped canvases are divided by long rectangular barriers of plastic paint spread on like butter. If you crouch down you can’t look under them, nor on tiptoe can you see over the top. They will never peel back to reveal open country. They are sunk into the paintings as solidly as foundation stones. Behind them (apparently) is being enacted a Coleridge cum Disney cum Monet cum Morris Louis cum spinach-in-borscht spectacular of dripped, sprayed, stirred, scrubbed, flicked, granulated colour, ranging from wet to dry, hard to soft, brash to delicate. There are also two little upright pictures of a narrow pillar of colour suggesting the rectangle seen, as it were, end on. They are like a couple of short stories, especially built for that scale.

Hoyland looked a notable colourist before, but now it is almost as if he had stopped painting in black and white (red and green are similarly polar) and started to use full colour for the first time. Not just colour visually, also physically. After the matt, smooth effects of staining we got accustomed to in the mid-sixties it is a revelation to see what acrylic paint can in fact do. Its built-in advantage and disadvantage of quick drying seems exactly to suit Hoyland, noted for his speed of working, and enables him to pile up an astonishing mixture of effects without losing impetus. There are few painters around who would be similarly capable of keeping so much under control at once.

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

© Anne Seymour / The Spectator