signed, dated 25-59 and inscribed VERTICAL REDS on the overlap; also signed on the stretcher
London, Tate Gallery, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Painting, 15th August - 7th October 1973, cat. no.96;
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Paintings and Sculpture, 24th November - 22nd December 2004, cat. no.245, lent by the Artist.
Although Turnbull is rightly seen as one of the foremost sculptors of his generation, painting has formed an integral part of his career, and from the late 1950s through to the early 1960s he produced a body of work that is remarkable for both its rigorous purity and its affinities with contemporary American painting.
The much-discussed 1956 Tate showing of a small group of Abstract Expressionist works had intrigued Turnbull, and in early 1957 he visited New York, meeting many of the artists and seeing their work at first hand. The paintings that he made on his return show clear evidence of the action of painting, but for Turnbull this was not the first concern, feeling rather that the paintings should not hide the confirmation of their making but should primarily transmit to the viewer a sense of completeness as an object, what he described as asserting an idea of 'constant now'.
Whilst the paintings of 1957 exhibit very thickly applied monochrome paint, and in fact slightly predate Robert Ryman's explorations in a similar vein, the paintings of 1958-59 often combine two colours in direct juxtaposition. In the context of British abstraction in the late 1950s, this single-minded boldness appears notably advanced, and at over forty years distance from their execution it is still difficult to relate them to the work of many of his contemporaries. Indeed they have much more in common with the next generation of artists that came to prominence through shows such as the 1960 Situation exhibition. This was recognised by critics at the time and in 1960 Lawrence Alloway wrote of Turnbull's paintings: 'His pictures are fields of colour, rather than figure-field relationships, so that the whole painting is the form, and not just the container of separate forms' (Lawrence Alloway, 'Avant Garde, London', Image, October 1960, pp.38-43).
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