‘It is in this interaction between differing colours that our full awareness of any of them lies. So the meeting lines between areas of colour are utterly crucial to our apprehension of the actual hue of those areas: the linear character of these frontiers cannot avoid changing our sensation of the colour in those areas...The line changes the colour of the colours on either side of it.’(Patrick Heron, ‘Colour in my painting: 1969’, Studio International, December 1969 cited in Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor Book Ventures in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1988, p.34.)
Like many of his paintings from this period, in the present work, Heron has turned his focus to loosely structured grids in which conforming shapes are set within the limits of the canvas. Heron upheld the belief that all sections of an artwork have equal significance to its compositional unity, even in his representational pieces where the negative space between figurative forms take on their own significance. The mid-1960s saw an entourage of dynamic canvases defined by brightly coloured forms, irregular divisions and incomplete shapes. Heron’s production process was characterised by spontaneous sketches straight to the canvas, filled with distinct unmixed colours that were applied in one session to ensure that the colours remained uniform in their depth and intensity: ‘Then I began to draw, and draw right up to the edges of the canvas…I drew it on with soft charcoal, and then rubbed it off, so if you got a pair of specs on you could probably see traces of a drawn line. Then I painted up right up to that line with big soft brushes’ (Patrick Heron, Martin Gayford, '"Looking is more interesting than doing anything else, ever": An Interview with Patrick Heron’ in David Sylvester, Patrick Heron, Tate Gallery Publishing, London, 1998, p.39).
This teamed with the scale of these paintings, and thus the visual impact of the meeting points of these large areas of vivid colour, is a key element to their success. Heron’s intention was that the viewer would be presented with pure colours in juxtaposition, the forms and their boundaries affecting the perceived spatial relationships.
As the artist observed himself, the conclusive brushstroke that would cover the last trace of the underlying canvas, marked the moment at which all the elements came together in a complimentary exchange of fluidity and vigour. When seen in a broader context of the painting from this period, the vivacity of Heron’s art is immediately clear and still looks remarkable for a body of works that have spanned across four decades.
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