“Islands” By Norman Hyams

23 May 2024 – 25 May 2024

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Free admission

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England, United Kingdom

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Connolly is delighted to announce a new summer exhibition of works “Islands" by artist Norman Hyams, on view from today and running until 25th September 2024 at 4 Clifford Street, London W1S 2LG, organised in collaboration with Freddie Foulkes.


Norman Hyams commenced this body of work in 2022. He is a focussed and committed painter, returning time and again to the same subject matter, seeking within its familiarity an exciting unfamiliarity. As William Feaver wrote on Frank Au- erbach in 2009: ‘To Paint the same head over and over leads to unfamiliarity; eventually you get near the raw truth about it, just as people only blurt out the raw truth in the middle of a family quarrel.’ The same applies here. Hyams experimenting with all the formal features that painting has to offer (media, composition, form, technique, palette, tone, and light among them) is Hyams recording all he feels in response to his subject matter; it is Hyams getting nearer and nearer the ‘raw truth’. The pictures exhibited here have been selected from a significantly larger body of work; the artist and I believe that these are nearer the raw truth than any others. 

Geography, experience, and imagination are all crucial to our understanding of islands. In many cases the focus of legend and invention, islands, from Atlantis to St. Helena (home to Napoleon’s last words), have excited and haunted humanity since the dawn of time; they are intensely loved and intensely loathed, they are desired and rejected, they are minutely scru- tinised yet often perilously misjudged. On islands we feel alternately landed and adrift, magnified and reduced, fulfilled and voided, at home and in exile. Norman Hyams’ Islands evidences the complex relationship we have with these natural phe- nomena. Painted using an extraordinary variety of media (including but not limited to oil paint, acrylic, marker pen, and for grounds: canvas, vinyl and paper) and an equally extraordinary variety of techniques, these ‘Islands’ show the wealth of sentiment and experience we seek and find in these often exotic and rapturous outposts.

"It is with good reason that Hyams encapsulates within Islands so many different moods; throughout time, islands have been interpreted and re-interpreted in so many various ways. ‘Deportation and isolation’, (translated from the Latin ‘deportatio ad insulam’) was the way in which Roman Emperor Augustus decided best to use the Aegean islands, when he was not using them for pleasure, that is. From 2 BC Augustus used islands not only to exile lawbreakers and troublemakers, but so too his rivals. While he had the raw power necessary to subdue any potential threat, he preferred to avoid such open use of force by instead limiting the aristocracy’s ability to organise and mobilise resistance against him. Geography proved mightier than the military. The island has retained its intoxicating appeal throughout the two millennia that have elapsed since. Daniel Defoe’s 1719 Robinson Crusoe is a landmark. Giving its name to an entire genre known as ‘Robinsonade’, of which Treasure Island, Lord of the Flies, Cast Away, and Lost are part, Robinson Crusoe’s popularity resides in its capacity for numerous interpretations: it is an exotic adventure story; a study of solitary consciousness; a parable of sin, atonement, and redemption; an encoded autobiography – and yet none of these explanations exhausts it. The same can be said, I think, of Norman Hyams’ Islands”. - Freddie Foulkes 

"Many of you may know that I have a very deep love for a certain Greek island; it gives me a sense of peace, of belonging, as well as a sense of discovery. Like all island stories it is about arrival and adventure and the unfolding of a destination. It is about arriving by boat, stepping onto unknown dry land, filling your lungs with that mix of sea air and local flora and fauna and discovering a new world.

There is something about the compactness of the land and the local architecture and the history of these sea locked com- munities that cast a spell. One fine morning last September I sat down with art curator Freddie Foulkes for a coffee at Mor- ris’s Cafe on Clifford Street. For a while we have wanted to work together but had been waiting for the right project to come along. From the moment Freddie showed me the paintings of artist Norman Hyams, I was on board ... sailing with him to his island of painted colour in the Aegean. Norman, like myself, has fallen for a particular Greek island, and his interpretation of this, his sense of arriving on the ebb and flow of tides makes his summer show ‘Islands’ both a journey and destination, the dream and the reality, escape and homecoming" - Isabel Ettedgui, Owner of Connolly 

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