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Posted 13.11.13

Gallery Shorts: Albert Irvin

Albert Irvin is a prolific artist, well known for his exuberant, colourful paintings and prints. Born on the 21st August 1922, he celebrated his 90th birthday in 2012, and was awarded an honorary Fellowship by Plymouth College of Art in the same year.

Irvin is one of an extraordinary generation of British painters, including Gillian Ayres, John Hoyland and Bridget Riley, who were profoundly influenced by the exhibition of American painting organised by the Tate in 1956. Irvin recalls the experience of seeing the Abstract Expressionist pictures as ‘like a bomb going off’. He became convinced that abstract art could stand in meaningful ‘relation to your own perception, you could move across a canvas in a way that you move through the spaces of the world… notions of space like proximity and distance could be revealed by moving across a canvas with a brush’.

I've lived through a period in which painting has been rejected; we've been told that painting is dead...If the young artist is a painter, I would say: 'Stick to it. Keep going. Don't let the bastards grind you down.' - Albert Irvin

Furthermore, he described this move into abstraction as connected to the feeling that it could have an immediate impact, that there was ‘no need for interpretation, like music’, and that you ‘could reveal something of the human condition’ in paintings which did not have ‘humans in them’.

The exhibition explores Irvin’s relationship with the birth of abstraction in Britain from the late 1950’s onwards, and will include works drawn from 1960 (Slow Black Night) to 2012 (Memory II). Although the artist is noted for his bright, dazzling paintings, the colour blue will be common to the exhibited works. Over the past decades these 'blue paintings' have appeared irregularly but repeatedly in his output. These lesser-known blue and blue-green paintings, warmed by other colours, are an essential part of Irvin’s artistic practice. They are studies in the metaphysical quality of painting and one of the key drivers in Irvin’s work.