Published on the occasion of Newport Street Gallery's inaugural exhibition – ‘Power Stations’ – this book provides a fascinating insight into the work of one of Britain’s leading abstract painters, John Hoyland. Renowned for his extraordinary and intuitive manipulation of colour, form and texture, Hoyland saw non-figurative imagery as offering, "the potential for the most advanced depth of feeling and meaning”. Spanning work drawn from a pivotal period in Hoyland’s career – 1964 to 1982 – the catalogue includes a comprehensive list of exhibited paintings, illustrated in full, as well as a foreword by Tate director, Nicholas Serota, written to coincide with Newport Street’s opening. Also featuring a text by art historian and critic, Barry Schwabsky, a re-published essay by the late writer Gordon Burn and a 2009 conversation between Hoyland and Damien Hirst, ‘Power Stations' both reaffirms Hoyland's status as a major innovative force within the field of international abstraction and provides new insights into his diverse and ever-evolving work.
About the contributors:
Barry Schwabsky is an American art critic, art historian and poet. He has taught at the School of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, New York University, Yale University, and Goldsmiths College, among others.
Gordon Burn was an English writer born in Newcastle upon Tyne and the author of four novels and several works of non-fiction.He also wrote a book with British artist Damien Hirst, On the Way to Work, a collection of interviews from various dates between 1992-2001. He contributed to The Guardian regularly, usually writing about contemporary art.
Sir Nicholas Serota is director of the Tate art museums and galleries. He was director of the Whitechapel Gallery,London, and The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, before becoming in 1988 director of the Tate. He has been the chairman of the Turner Prize jury.
John Hoyland (1934–2011) is one of Britain’s leading abstract painters. Renowned for his intuitive manipulation of colour, form, line and space, Hoyland emerged at the forefront of the abstract movement in Britain in the early 1960s, and remained an energetic and innovative force within the field, until his death in 2011.
Hoyland’s rejection of figurative painting occurred in the late 1950s following his introduction to the work of American abstract expressionists such as Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The young artist was also informed by the emergence of formalist theory as a major innovating force within British sculpture, as exemplified by the work of Anthony Caro, with whom Hoyland was to become a collaborator and close friend. Describing abstraction as a ‘revolution of twentieth century art’, Hoyland began making early enquiries into how rational thought and visual perception could be used as the sole basis for pictorial composition. Disclaiming a visual culture dominated by objects, he would later write:
“We have refused to look and enjoy abstract relationships, harmonies of colour and form, which we do without question in music. No one surely would ask: “Does music have meaning?” It appeals to the emotions but we don’t attempt to specify those feelings [...] So it is with painting.” (Hayward Annual 1980: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Selected by John Hoyland: [exhibition] 29 Aug. – 12 Oct. 1980, Hayward Gallery, London)
Despite consistently maintaining that non-figurative imagery embodied ‘the potential for the most advanced depth of feeling and meaning’, Hoyland disliked the label of ‘abstract artist’, asserting that its implications of premeditated action did not apply to his working methods. Describing the instinctive nature of his process, he asserted that painting provided a means of ‘measuring one’s physical and emotional responses’. Simultaneously monumental and poetic, the works presented in ‘Power Stations’ are, above all, sensory experiences. Serving as an overdue affirmation of Hoyland’s significance within the field of abstraction, they provide fascinating new insights into the artist’s practice, and through it, the object of painting itself.
Hoyland was born in Sheffield and studied at the Royal Academy Schools, London, where he completed his diploma in 1960. The same year, he appeared in the pioneering Situation exhibition at the RBA Galleries, London, the first show to present large-scale abstract paintings by British artists. In 1964 he featured in Bryan Robertson’s group show, The New Generation,at the Whitechapel Gallery, and three years later he was the subject of a large-scale exhibition at the same gallery. In 1969, Hoyland represented Britain in the São Paolo Biennale with Anthony Caro. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Hoyland split his time between New York, London and Wiltshire and in 1979, the Serpentine Gallery presented a survey of his latest work. A long-standing and outspoken Royal Academician, he was appointed Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy Schools in 1999 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University in 2000. Later in his career, retrospectives of his work were held at the Royal Academy (1999), the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield (2001) and Tate St Ives (2006). In 2006 he was the subject of a major monograph by the critic Mel Gooding (published by Thames & Hudson).
On the significance of the artist, Hirst has stated: “In my eyes, John Hoyland was an artist who was never afraid to push the boundaries. His paintings always feel like a massive celebration of life to me.”