Felix & Spear Gallery is pleased to present ‘Alan Gouk: A retrospective, part one 1973-1989, a special exhibition of select paintings spanning the earlier part of the artist’s career.
“Although I had experimented freely with oils and acrylics in the late 1960s, my first characteristic paintings of the early 70s were in acrylics. Pomegranate Burst 1973-74 was a response to my first visit to New York in 1972, and marked a shift towards Hans Hofmann as a major influence. The attempt to invest acrylics with some of the tactile qualities of oil paint continued through the late 70s, with In The Wake Of the Plough, 1979, a nod to Hofmann's In The Wake of the Hurricane (Berkeley, California). Quercus marks a decisive shift to oils, and a hands-on way of building a painting that involves adjusting and readjusting of colour towards surface unity through the paint. My creative juices have always responded to the mixing and modelling of paint before anything else, before colour, before drawing (as one paints one draws). The form that takes shape is a semi-involuntary response to the interaction of colour with surface and the overall proportions of the support.
I have no representational thoughts in mind as I work, but just as Mussorgsky was inspired by the drawings of his friend Haartmann to imagine a sound world in parallel without resorting to description (for the most part), in his Pictures From an Exhibition, so abstract painting can take inspiration from many sources without resorting to depiction, narrative or overt reference. Any kind of rhythmic movement of the brush or arm will carry mimetic connotations, like it or not. There is no use fighting it. Better to give it free rein. But this does not mean that we should acquiesce to overt or disguised figuration. Bougainvillea-Stiges 1989 is a response to a visit to that town, when we ran out of money, had to sleep on the beach, and Pat had her passport stolen. We were offered succour by a generous Hostal owner across the tracks from the railway station, and eventually bunked a ride
on an early morning train to Barcelona, and the help of the British Ambassador. It was painted in one continuous afternoon session over some earlier underpainting. Is any of this history evident in the final result? Of course not! Just as "absolute" music is an unattainable ideal (perhaps Bach's The Art of Fugue is a rare exception, or one of Milton Babbit's mathematical constructs), so in painting total Abstraction is a will-o-the wisp ideal that reduces rather than enhances its potential. What one wants is clarity with abundance, "clear, demarcated, out there, resistant to the eye" (Adrian Stokes).”
Alan Gouk, 2017
ABOUT ALAN GOUK
Alan Gouk was born in Belfast in 1939 and studied architecture in Glasgow and London and then psychology and philosophy at Edinburgh University. From 1964 to 1967 he worked as an exhibitions officer at the British Council, helping to organise the British exhibition at the 1966 Venice Biennale, and making contact with many prominent artists of the time, notably Anthony Caro. In 1967 Gouk was a prize-winner at the John Moores Liverpool exhibition, and he also began at this time a long and inspirational teaching in the Sculpture Department of St. Martin's School of Art.
In the early Seventies, Gouk's work was included in shows at the Hayward Gallery, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, before being instrumental in establishing the painting and sculpture annual exhibitions at Stockwell Depot. He participated in "Four Abstract Painters" at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 1977, and had an important show at the Woodlands Gallery, Greenwich (with Geoff Ridgen) in 1982, but had to wait until 1987 for his first solo show in London, at Smith's Gallery. Also in 1987, Patrick Heron chose Gouk for "Artist for the Day" at Angela Flowers Gallery, and Gouk subsequently had solo shows at Flowers East in 1995, 1997, and 2001. He also had solo London shows at Sandra Higgins Fine Art in 1990, and at East/West Gallery in 1994 and 2002. In 2002 Gouk was again a prize-winner at the John Moores Liverpool exhibition. Throughout his career Gouk has written extensively about art and has been published widely. His painting is in numerous collections including the Tate Gallery, London; the Arts Council; the Scottish Arts Council; and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.