Heath encouraged Frost to follow his incipient interest, and with an ex-serviceman's grant, Frost was accepted to study at Camberwell School of Art. Here he was introduced to another strand of artistic thought, notably that of Victor Pasmore. Like the St Ives artists Pasmore was treading a path that was drawing increasingly abstracted imagery from natural subject matter. However, whilst the St Ives tendency was to take an instinctive route to such abstraction, many of the artists associated with Camberwell were becoming increasingly interested in the theoretical aspects of composition. This simultaneous exposure to, and friendships within, the two major emerging strands of British abstraction were key to establishing the unique position that is held by Frost's art at this time.
It was in 1956, two years before the date of the present work, that Frost and his contemporaries saw the first British exhibition of American Abstract Expressionism at the Tate in London, which may well have encouraged Frost’s greater appreciation of an expressive paint surface, monochrome palette and large scale canvas. It was also throughout the period following 1956 that Frost began to develop close personal and professional relationships with the major players of American Abstract Expressionism such as Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, all of whom were to influence Frost’s work, whether in terms of scale, palette or application, whose influence can so easily be seen in the present composition.
Throughout the 1950s, Frost’s work explored the dialectic of chaos and control, abandoning clear-cut structural compositions in favour of an assortment of forms and shapes, which float and sway within the composition. As Frost later recalled ‘when I make a painting it is with paint on a flat surface and belongs to itself. It is started by one human being wondering, observing, questioning, worrying, trying to see the truth, trying to penetrate the mystery of life’ (Terry Frost, quoted in Terry Frost: Paintings, Drawings and Collages, (exh. cat.), Arts Council, London, 1977, p.14). This artistic exploration is clearly visible in the present work, with its deep, rich palette, plunging shapes and emphatic brushstrokes, combined with the dynamism of the swooping sail shape that serves to lead the eye across the canvas. All of these factors work together to give the painting a striking confidence that sets it apart as one of the most exciting and engaging works created by the Artist during the 1950s.
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