"It was an exercise in looking, just arriving in New York - which set the whole thing up, an astonishing, exceptional experience." Telfer Stokes
Telfer Stokes was born in St Ives, Cornwall, 1940, shortly after the outbreak of World War II. His parents, the painter and sculptor Margaret Mellis, and his father, the critic Adrian Stokes, were part of the wartime artistic community of St Ives. As such, Stokes’ early years were spent amongst Naum Gabo, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron and occasionally Francis Davison, who was later to become his step-father. The influence of that group of artists remains, and has to some extent informed Stokes' own artistic concerns both then and now.
Having attended the Slade School of Art, his subsequent move to New York in 1962 radically transformed his painting. Colour, surface, form and scale became predominant within the series of paintings he made during this time. The paintings within this exhibition have largely remained unseen since Stokes left New York in 1963. Indeed, they have remained in the same hessian covers in which they were rolled by Stokes and his friend Barnett Newman, the great American Abstract Expressionist painter.
After returning to London the scene was clearly different and again the concerns realigned. By 1968 the paintings of that period had developed a more rigid technique, palette and surface, but more importantly a dominant optical element. The 1970s moved further towards conceptual art in the medium of books. However, the eventual need to physically make work later manifested itself in the form of sculpture, and in particular welded steel. It could be said that within the works included in this exhibition one can build a direct line to the artists around him as a child.
This exhibition marks the first time that both Stokes' early paintings and sculpture of recent years have been shown together. A fully illustrated catalogue, which accompanies the exhibition, features an extensive interview with Stokes by the journalist and curator Adrian Dannatt.