'I can remember that extraordinary sense of shedding everything, of leaving all the known tracks. And then just looking for something that could be my own, of interpreting the actual structure of painting which seemed to connect with abstract art - structure and space - and finding my own language in it'.
Sandra Blow, in conversation with Sarah O'Brien Twohig, Sandra Blow, exh.cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1994, p.33.
The British artistic landscape of the 1950s underwent considerable changes as the English Neo-Romantic aesthetic declined in favour of new developments in abstraction. For these artists, form was desired above any definable sense of representation, and in Blow's work of the 1950s, we see her own distinct and important contribution to the new British abstract movement.
Blow contributed to the current concerns with form through the very physical inclusion of unconventional materials. In Sacking and Plaster a thick and coarse netting, roughly worked with plaster, radically explores ideas of three-dimensionality. By intersecting the surface with the thick black line of oil, a dramatic tension resounds through the painting.
Blow's reinterpretation of collage in this manner was influenced by a formative year she spent in Italy in 1949. Whilst there, she formed a close friendship with Alberto Burri who was exploring the expressive potential of basic materials in works called sacchi. His process of constructing paintings from non-artistic materials such as earth, ash, cement and sacking appealed to Blow's highly developed feeling for texture and colour. Absorbing such techiques for her own end, she moved away from Burri's more delicate and refined execution of sacchi to emphasise further the physicality of the painting process, evident in the tactility of Sacking and Plaster. In her exploration of form during this period, Blow's paintings delight in the gestural handling of material, creating vigorous, energetic pieces which reveal her own very individual contribution to the post-war British artistic landscape.
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