In The Tube, Kossoff’s rich colour palette gives way to viscous eddies of impasto, forms sculpted in paint in which colours glimmer and emerge from within the packed strata of paint. This style of painting was formed alongside an ambitious group of British painters who emerged during the 1950s in London and included Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and, perhaps with greatest affiliation, Frank Auerbach with whom Kossoff studied under David Bomberg at his now famous evening class at the Borough Polytechnic. As critic and curator David Sylvester describes, “There are artists such as Kossoff who persist in trying, as Bacon and as Giacometti did, to pick those threads [of European representational tradition] up, setting out to realise the immemorial ambition to re-create, directly and wholly, the sensation of looking at a head or a figure or tree” (David Sylvester, ‘Against All Odds’ in: Ibid., p. 14). As with Bacon, in the hands of Kossoff the paint is flesh, however for Kossoff the flesh is that of London, and is a flesh that changes with each sitting. Like his contemporaries Kossoff painted that which he knew best; in limiting his subject to the immediate vicinity of his neighbourhood, the anonymous people that passed through these places, and the friends that posed for his portraits, Kossoff transformed the everyday into the extraordinary. Teeming with a remarkable level of perceptual detail, The Tube is a consummate crystallisation of Kossoff's central artistic concern – the transformation of a specific location to a deeply personal and emotive painterly reality.
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