Sir Terry Frost, R.A. 1915-2003
- Sir Terry Frost, R.A.
- Yellow and Black Movement
- signed, inscribed with title and dated 1952 on the reverse
- oil on board
- 175.5 by 122cm.; 69 by 48in.
Private Collection, UK
Private Collection, France
David Lewis et al., Terry Frost, Scholar Press, Aldershot, 1994, p.59, illustrated in colour, p.59;
Chris Stephens, Terry Frost, Tate Publishing, London, 2000, p.28, illustrated in colour, plate 18.
Trained at Camberwell School of Art, Frost’s earliest mature work tracks a path to abstraction which is quite distinct in its style and influences. Although he was working in St.Ives in the early 1950s, Frost’s painting did not fully embrace the gestural abstraction of Cornish contemporaries such as Lanyon, tending to keep a strong element of carefully balanced and calculated spatial elements at the fore. Thus his St.Ives paintings from the early 1950s sit at the very centre of the debate between the experience-influenced abstracted images of the St.Ives painters and the rigorously constructivist work of the artists of the Fitzroy group and therefore have a crucial place in British abstract art of the immediate post-war period.
The group of works that precede Yellow & Black Movement tend to be grouped around the important 1950 painting Walk Along The Quay (Private Collection). In this work and others of the group, Frost sought to find a visual language which would express the sense of place and movement found in the harbour of St.Ives in an abstract idiom. Derived in part from his experience of early morning walks through the town and his observation of movements and sensations such as rocking boats and ropes stretched across the sand, the paintings use extremely sophisticated geometrical relationships to suggest familiar forms and shapes whilst never actually offering us pictorially identifiable references. These paintings also see the earliest appearances of what was to become a familiar vocabulary of Frost’s art; the semi-circles, the highlighted discs and the truncated L and T forms.
However, Frost’s close links with Heath and the constructivist circle seem to have lead to his work developing a much more abstracted and geometric structure. In the present painting we see this very clearly. Of unusually large scale for the period, the dynamic impact of the yellow and black palette is almost overwhelming, and whilst we can still identify the occasional Walk Along The Quay-type reference, such as the segment in the lower right, the overall sense is of an image more concerned with its own harmony and development than with remembered references.
The only way I got back to painting after working for Barbara Hepworth was through small constructions and collage. I had to make a shape. It was almost alarming to realise that all my paintings on a flat surface were an illusion.
The Golden Section is in here again, and wedge-shaped areas that make the painting jammed tight. The little bits of frivolity are my bit of fun. Those spirals are there because I was trying to stick my coloured shapes on and they fell off: the glue was a black kind of bitumen stuff which I put on in a spiral (The Artist, April 2000).