Virtue’s decision to paint exclusively in black and white shifts the focus from a colourist response to a more structural interest in the sea. His work highlights the fact that the ocean is in continual movement and can never be captured in one artwork; it can only ever be an abstraction of the subject.
From 2003 to 2005, John Virtue was Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London. The drawings he made each day culminated in a series of grand paintings of the capital which were shown at the National Gallery in 2005, while a selection of the drawings were on view at The Courtauld Gallery. Two years living in Italy separated his time in London and his move to Norfolk. It was the sea at Blakeney Point that inspired Virtue to move to North Norfolk in 2009 and, since then, he has produced his series of seascapes that are on display at Firstsite.
John Virtue: The Sea follows a series of recent presentations of this body of work at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich (April – August 2014) and Towner in Eastbourne (January – April 2015).
Works by John Virtue are held in numerous public and private collections including Tate, British Museum, Arts Council England, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, USA, and the Queensland Museum and Gallery for Modern Art, Australia.