The work from the second half of his career, the 1980s and 1990s, which makes up the body of this new exhibition, sits upon deep, almost unexpected layers of innovation and experience that only careful study of his life and work fully reveals. This major exhibition of paintings from the Estate of Michael Upton has moved from Messum’s London gallery to a virtual online platform at www. messums.com during lockdown. The online exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated printed catalogue (£15) with foreward by critic and author David Boyd Haycock, a short film with commentary from David Messum as he explores and discusses the paintings and a virtual gallery allowing visitors to experience the complete exhibition.
Michael Upton’s interest in urban subjects through this period often evokes the subtle colour and vision of Walter Sickert or William Coldstream: views from upstairs windows onto ordinary London and New York streets, a northern town, a seaside suburb. They are, nonetheless, filled with an appreciation for the evocative beauty. In his landscapes Upton moved more towards the colourful abstraction of Ivon Hitchens, using confident blocks of solid colour. This was particularly to be seen in the many watercolours that formed an important part of his later output, and which he appears to have painted almost compulsively.
Exploring Michael Upton’s origins and development, experiments and changing processes as an artist across the course of four decades – gives a remarkable window into his practice and process, and into the mind of a man who spent his life searching for ways in which the modern artist might properly reflect the modern environment. It’s like a lesson in British art history through the second half of the twentieth century, filled with the famous names that dot Upton’s career from its very beginning up to his premature death in 2002.