John Copnall died in June 2007 and to celebrate his life and work MARK BARROW FINE ART will be staging a series of exhibitions exploring specific periods of his long career. Starting with an examination of his colour field work of the early 1970s, the first exhibition will feature more than 20 seminal paintings executed between 1970 and 1975.
During this period Copnall shed the heavily textured surfaces of his 1960s work and began to concentrate on pure colour. Whilst the canvases became larger in scale, the surface was very much pared down. His innovative use of poured, elongated stripes of acrylic on wet cotton duck precipitated a gradual bleeding of colour not only with the background (which was often untreated canvas) but also between the stripes to form subtle variations of both colours making them vibrate and quietly sing. This gave Copnall (and in turn his audience) a very different experience of organic space and colour, one in which control and chance became intertwined. It is this delicate combination of masterly control and sheer chance that makes these works so fresh and vital almost 40 years on.
A fully illustrated colour catalogue accompanies the exhibition
Background on the artist
John Copnall was born in Slinfold, Sussex, in February 1928, son of sculptor Bainbridge Copnall. Studied at the Architectural Association in the early 1940s before completing his National Service in the Army. On returning, Copnall briefly studied painting at the Sir John Cass College, before enrolling at the Royal Academy in 1949. Won the Turner Gold medal for painting in 1954. In 1955, Copnall went off with a friend on what was meant to be a month long hitchhiking holiday in Spain, but fell in love with the landscape and ended up staying for 13 years. He lived in a run-down hacienda in the mountains above Malaga. It was here that he evolved from being a figurative painter in the Camden Town / Euston Road tradition of his training and began to explore the possibilities of abstract art. Copnall returned to London in 1968 and became an influential teacher at the Central School of Art & Design and was a visiting lecturer at Canterbury College of Art. During this time he continued to exhibit widely. He was elected a member of The London Group in 1989. He died in June 2007.