What mescalin did for Wynter was to create a fractured visual experience, in which the world seemed to split into shards, revealing itself in layers that suggested shifts in space and time. And his work from this time – of which In the Stream’s Path is a classic example – explored and recorded what he saw beyond the ‘doors of perception’ (to quote Aldous Huxley’s text on the mescalin experience). The technical and structural base, however, is also grounded in tachisme, the European equivalent of Abstract Expressionism, in which the brushstroke – the tache - is made free from describing anything other than itself and expressive of meaning in its own right. As with much of what was going on in St Ives at the time, Wynter’s painting though is never purely abstract, there is always a sense of the landscape, although perhaps here more a landscape of the mind than of the numinous and layered landscape of West Penwith, where he had made his home and studio in an abandoned house high up on the moors overlooking the sea. Like his contemporary and friend Peter Lanyon, Wynter’s painting seeks to express the elemental. Whilst Lanyon took to the skies for inspiration, Wynter dug deep into the land, to water, fire and ice. In the Stream’s Path is a study of the chaos of nature, of fluidity and crystallisation, of lightning-quick movement and glacial progress.
Often in these nominally abstract paintings one glimpses skeletal figures, hard to read but definitely there in works such as The Indias (Private Collection), but much clearer in Hostile Tribe (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh). During the Second World War, Wynter had become interested in psychoanalysis and (inevitably for an artist of the post-war period) the work of Carl Jung, in particular his concept of universal archetypes: singular forms of prehistoric origin that are not the creation of the individual but common to humanity, totems for the magic lost to mankind through ‘civilisation’ – allies to the fundamental ambitions of Modern art.
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