Contemporary British Artists: John Hoyland

Continuing our new series of blogs looking at contemporary British artists, we take a look at one of the country’s leading abstract painters, John Hoyland.

Earlier this year Yale University Press published The Independent Eye: Contemporary British Art from the Collection of Samuel and Gabrielle Lurie. This beautifully illustrated book takes readers inside Samuel and Gabrielle Lurie’s dynamic private collection of contemporary British art, an intended gift to the Yale Center for British Art.

The Independent Eye features an interview with the Luries, as well as essays by leading critics and writers, some of whom were and are personally acquainted with the artists represented. These experts assess individual artists and works, explore their inspirations and methods, and define their shared experiences and values. They also address subjects such as the overall importance of the collection and postwar art in Britain.

Spanning the past four decades, the collection includes major works by Ian Stephenson, Patrick Caulfield, and John Walker, as well as important prints by Howard Hodgkin and R.B. Kitaj. However, at its core are 52 paintings and drawings by John Hoyland, widely considered one of Britain’s foremost abstract painters.

About John Hoyland

John Hoyland (b 1934) is one of Britain’s leading abstract painters and has been called Europe’s answer to Mark Rothko. Since the early 1960s he has achieved international recognition for a body of work that eliminates literal depiction of the observed world. His art uses shape, colour and, later, texture and the movement of paint to evoke a world of emotion and imagination.

“If I had died in 1969 I’d be a legend by now” – John Hoyland

A decisive influence was seeing the exhibition The New American Painting at the Tate Gallery in 1959. For Hoyland the large, defiant scale of American Abstract Expressionist painting provided a new direction. Following his first visit to New York in 1964 his work changed dramatically. By the mid-1960s he had forged a distinctive personal style which advanced a startling use of simple shapes and high-key colour. These paintings defied the modernist insistence on a flat picture surface. Instead they emphasised the illusion of space.

During the 1970s, Hoyland produced paintings which are thickly painted and richly textural. Insistently abstract, these works possess an extraordinary material physicality. Since the 1980s, Hoyland’s paintings have developed far beyond their early formal emphasis, suggesting mysterious other worlds.

“A lot of young artists now have an idea and want to illustrate it, but they do almost everything they can to avoid paint and the sensuality of painting. It’s all so concept-based – and the real killer is computer art. Some of it is all right when you first look at it, but when you look closer it becomes more vacuous. The whole thing for me is the spontaneity that happens in the process of creating something.” – Hoyland talking to the Independent

Retrospectives of his paintings have been held at the Serpentine Gallery (1979), the Royal Academy (1999) and Tate St Ives (2006). He won the 1982 John Moores Painting Prize.

The Independent Eye is available from Yale University Press

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