This exhibition is a celebration of Robyn Denny’s work from the 1960s, an especially significant period in the extensive career of an artist who played a key role in the evolution of British abstraction whilst mainly looking to America for inspiration.
Robyn Denny (1930-2014) was one of an internationally acclaimed group who began to transform British art in the late 1950s and which went on to receive global acclaim in the 60s and 70s. Denny’s large-scale, colourful abstract paintings embody the cool, modernising mood we associate with the 1960s, yet some of his work can also have a more sombre and enigmatic presence, which conversely makes some of the paintings seem utterly timeless. ‘No painting should reveal all it has to say as a kind of instant impact,’ Denny told an interviewer in 1964. ‘Abstract painting… should be as diverse and complex and strange and unaccountable, and unnameable as an experience, as any painting of consequence has been in the past.’ As Martin Holman points out in his text accompanying the exhibition at Newlyn Art Gallery in 2017, Denny pursued that main objective throughout his career.
After National Service, Denny studied at St Martin’s and latterly at the Royal College of Art. Soon after his graduation in 1957, he enjoyed considerable success alongside his contemporaries Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Peter Blake and David Hockney who reacted against the mainstream, landscape painting of the preceding generation. Denny took part in Documenta III in 1964 and, in 1966, he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale alongside Anthony Caro, Bernard Cohen, Harold Cohen and Richard Smith. In 1973, he was the youngest artist to receive a retrospective at Tate. Denny was inspired by Abstract Expressionism as well as American films, popular culture and urban modernity; it is therefore of little surprise that he eventually moved to the States in the 1980s. His work is in major public collections around the world including: Art Institute of Chicago; Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Australia, Sydney; Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Yale Centre for British Art, as well as the Arts Council England; Government Art Collection; Tate; The British Council; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Museum of Wales.
Neil Gall: The Studio: New collages, painting and sculpture
We are delighted to announce an exhibition in the Artists House of collages, painting and sculpture by Neil Gall. This body of work is Gall’s first show at the New Art Centre and presents a dialogue between his collages based on The Studio magazine and his collage inspired cut-out paintings.
Gall was first given copies of The Studio by his secondary-school art teacher, which has inspired him to make an ongoing series of collages, using the original magazine covers and adding his own interventions with drawings and texts. Together they offer a fascinating window onto the very different art world of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The works encompass figuration and abstraction, painting and sculpture, colour and black and white, and combine drawing, collage and montage, with layering techniques revealed through piercings Gall cuts into publication, the holes in the covers representing a portal through which we can re-imagine the art and artists of an earlier time.
Founded in 1893 by Charles Holme, The Studio was international in scope and concentrated on both the fine and applied arts combining reviews, articles as well as practical advice to artists. The last issue of The Studio was published in 1964, after which it became Studio International. When Peter Townsend became Editor in 1966, he did much to ensure the publication reflected new developments in the art world but with a bias towards British artists. This popular and influential journal coincided with the founding of the New Art Centre in London in 1958, and many of the artists with whom the gallery first worked, appear in editorial and on the covers including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore of course, as well as Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, F.E. McWilliam, Ceri Richards and Ian Stephenson amongst others. Robyn Denny also features; hence Gall’s work is the perfect partner to our exhibition of Robyn Denny’s paintings in the main gallery.
Neil Gall (b. 1967) studied at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen and at the Slade, London. He has had many solo exhibitions in the UK and Germany, most recently at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds and at the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, and his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; Zabludowicz Collection, London; City Gallery Prague; the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; Denver Art Museum and Pier Arts Centre, Stromness amongst many others.