Application to be part of the Blue Monkey Network Curatorial team

Taking a look through Towner’s records an image that immediately stood out for me was a work by Patrick Heron [ 1920 – 1999]. Titled  “Gouache with Some Lines” March 1962 – I at first thought it was a later work. Just looking at it’s graphic economy and unabashed verve in the use of colour made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It delivers immediately. This image is not a slow burner and makes no apologies for it.

To quickly put this image into context we must remind ourselves of Patrick Heron’s relationship with the “New” American painting that was happening at the time.

Patrick Heron wrote a number of articles in Studio International in the 1960s in which he denies Clement Greenberg’s assertion that Abstract Expressionism was the product of New York alone. He was particularly irritated by Geenberg’s assertion that British Abstract painting was only “landscape painting in disguise”.

In 1956 an exhibition at the Tate Gallery “Modern Art in the United States” showed the art of De Kooning, Motherwell, Pollock, Rothko, Tobey and Tomlin. Patrick Heron responded by saying:

“I was instantly elated by the size, energy, originality, economy and inventive daring of many of the paintings. Their creative emptyness represented a radical discovery; I felt, as did their flatness or spatial shallowness. I was fascinated by their constant denial of illusionistic depth…”[1].

It seems to me that although Heron was for a time excited by what was happening in America, looking at his work demonstrates that he was no mere second player in the great experiment of Abstraction, but a leading exponent.

And as for me, why does his work resonate?

It was through looking at work by the likes of Patrick Heron when I was younger, that I first understood the emotive power of colour. He serves as a constant reminder that one should never play safe in its use but always take risks. I also love his self assuredness often only found in the last few years of an artist’s creative life. Patrick Heron is a true champion of the vitality and value of painting.

[1] Ronald Alley. Patrick Heron: The Development of a Painter. Studio International, Vol 174. No 891 July/August 1967, p 20.

Paul Bartholomew is a painter who lives and works in Eastbourne, East Sussex.Through the use of simple geometrical constraints coupled with a deep passion for colour, Paul’s art tries to, on the one hand, celebrate our potential for oneness – our human similarities, and on the other hand reflect upon our propensity towards disharmony and bloodshed. Being an optimist at heart, celebration often seems to get the upper hand.