This exhibition is a concise journey through some of the most seminal and definitive paintings of Denny's ongoing 60-year career as an artist, and provides the opportunity to acknowledge the artist once again as undoubtedly one of the most important British painters of the 20th Century.
Born in 1930, Denny studied in Paris and at Central St. Martins, before entering the Royal College of Art in 1954. He was part of the generation of artists who were to revolutionise abstraction. Inspired by American Abstract Expressionism, popular culture, and urban modernity, they recognised abstraction as their only conceivable route. This was Post-War Britain, a pivotal period, a time of new beginnings with a sense that everything was possible, and where painting could be invented all over again. By 1956 onwards, Denny was initiating many avant-garde experiments, now famous reference exhibitions, from Place at the ICA to Situation, a co-curated show at the RBA Galleries where a whole new generation of abstract artists in Britain participated.
The six paintings featured in this exhibition not only received extensive exposure in their time, but they also serve as incontestable examples of the most important phases of Denny's career in their most accomplished resolution, allowing us to experience and review the full scope of his impressive legacy. This exhibition alone reconnects us to the First Paris Biennale in 1959, New London Situation, at the New London Gallery in 1961, the British Pavilion of the XXIII Venice Biennale in 1966, his retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1973, and The Sixties Art Scene in London, at the Barbican Art Centre in 1993.
There is a quality in the work of Denny that is unmatched by most of the other British abstract artists of his generation; his Hard-Edge vocational choice in 1960 took him a step ahead. The intricate relationship of scale, colour and medium, and the painstakingly complex compositions of layers towards a unique emanation of tone, all contributed to a radical new syntactic structure and order within itself. The work does not seek to lure the viewer in; it is powerfully straightforward, an open field of forms and colours to the naked eye. Its powerful materiality, however, goes well beyond its apparent corporeality, slowly releasing subliminal perception. This substantial element, which is technical - the painting is an object - is also about Time, experienced, enhanced, and relived. The work absorbs us into a new experience of looking, with absolute simplicity and considerable precision, in which the human scale is the ultimate key, as well as the integration of the subject in the object, in a complete statement of intent.
These paintings are structured by concepts of wide implications. Denny would easily have been brought into the core of Greenbergian debates had he not ignored the status of hyper- creator and transmitter of meta-personal narratives. Yet his results are as powerful and as philosophically far-reaching as those of his American peers in rigorously expressing freedom of the man and the art of their time.
Celebrated, and still influencing new generations of artists today, Denny's substantial achievements are increasingly being revisited. His paintings continue to withstand the test of time. This exhibition, made up of landmark paintings from four decades, provides the rare opportunity to witness and experience it first-hand.
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