- Roger Hilton
- signed and dated '66 on the reverse
- oil and charcoal on canvas
- 91 by 76cm.; 36 by 29in.
Hilton's primary concern was with the act of painting. Although there is an influence of contemporary European and American trends, his canvases come alive with an originality of expression as he fearlessly experiments with line, colour, space and texture in his work. As he aptly puts it: 'The greatest artist will be the one who most completely lets the medium shoulder the idea' (Roger Hilton, quoted in Into Seeing New: The Art of Roger Hilton, (exh. cat.), Tate St Ives, St Ives, 2006, p.6). In this work Hilton has used charcoal line on the canvas, which became a distinguishing feature of his oeuvre from 1956 onwards. He did not use charcoal as a means of under-painting or outlining a form as was traditionally expected. Rather, he drew over and onto the paint using a variety of densely worked strokes and barely discernible delicate traces, making the drawn line crucial to the composition, as important to the effect as his application of paint. Indeed, drawing was so important to Hilton that it formed part of his daily routine: he would draw every morning to engage his mind before commencing a painting. Chris Stephens describes the importance of the ‘drawn line’ in his work: 'There is something in the quality of these lines, in the quality of the paint and in the relationship between the two that is both suggestive and sensual. They serve as a record of the artist's hand but also of a more general touch, of a caress, and at the same time of something visceral if not abject' (ibid, p.14).
In the present work Hilton has perfected his use of these errant charcoal lines, placing them in perfect harmony to interact and create a tension with the solid masses of variously textured elastic blue pigment. These three forms are placed with a care that belies their seemingly spontaneous nature: they appear to float on the surface, silhouetted against the white background and pressing against the edges of the canvas. Mel Gooding explains: 'the shapes themselves are intuitively arrived at, and their relations with each other are arbitrary and unsystematic, inconclusive and mysterious' (Mel Gooding, 'Charms against Darkness: The Paintings of Roger Hilton', Roger Hilton, (exh. cat.), The Southbank Centre, London, 1993, p.11).
Roger Mayne and Hilton were neighbours in London; Mayne would photograph Hilton's paintings and also Hilton at work in his studio and the two became friends. In his photographs of Hilton at work (see fig.1), Mayne adeptly captures the dynamism and passion of his working methods. With Hilton's move to St Ives during his most erratic years in the late 1960s, Mayne remained a stalwart friend. His purchase of this work at Waddington's is testament to this continued support of, and belief in, his friend.