An exhibition dedicated to Irvin’s work opened Kings Place ten years ago. Now he returns, this time alongside John Golding, his friend and contemporary.
The first major retrospective of Irvin’s work will be held at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, from 8 December 2018 to 3 March 2019. John Golding (1929-2012) was best known as an art historian of cubism and abstraction and taught at the Courtauld Institute for more than 20 years. However, he always declared himself to be first and foremost a painter. Inspired as a young man by the Mexican muralist José Orozco and later by American Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman, Golding worked in an exclusively abstract idiom from the mid-’60s, his work typified by rich effusions of colour breaking through hard borders.
Albert Irvin (1922-2015) made perhaps some of the most vibrant and celebratory paintings of modern British abstraction. Having served as an RAF navigator during the Second World War, cartographic traces recur in his early work, often in subdued tonalities of ochre, beige and burgundy. Increasingly using a broad brush, squeegee or palette knife to create thick gestural marks on vast canvases, his work from the ’80s and ’90s became characterised by full-blooded colour with off-hand geometric patterns and diagonal structures. During this period, he cemented his place as a successful Royal Academician with an admiring public.
Considered together, Golding and Irvin’s work from 1980s to 2000s reflects the dazzling impact of Abstract Expressionism on British shores. Both artists were profoundly influenced by The New American Painting, an exhibition held at Tate Gallery in 1959 and the first substantial showing of the work of Clyfford Still, Sam Francis, Mark Rothko, Grace Hartigan, Willem De Kooning and others selected by famed curator Alfred Barr at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York. There are few artists better placed than Golding and Irvin to argue for the adaptations British painters made to the creative model they inherited from across the Atlantic. Both developed an entirely unique style of remarkable integrity and diversity intended to express, as Irvin wrote, “the experience of being in the world”.