Many of the visual art works made during the 1970s found themselves neglected as attention focused on the rise of conceptual and performance art. In a new exhibition, The Piper Gallery in Soho demonstrates that, even as modernist certainties were challenged, new possibilities in abstract art continued to emerge.
New Possibilities: Abstract Paintings from the Seventies presents works by 14 artists from that era. The Piper Gallery is dedicated to showcasing the work of contemporary artists whose careers have spanned 40 years or more, both to present them to a new generation and to demonstrate their life-long commitment to their practice and the continuing dynamism of their recent work.
Chipperfield artist Graham Boyd is one of those exhibiting.
“Mine is one of the bigger paintings in the show,“ says the 84-year-old. “It’s called The Descender and it’s totally abstract. It was made at a time when I was interested in the idea of taking a line for a walk in space – exploring the whole canvas with this line shuttling back and forwards, with colour representing the different stages of the journey.“
In the 1970s Graham shifted from making abstracts with palette knives and brushes to using a spray gun, and The Descender is an example of this.
“With this one, I was trying to create energy,“ says Graham, who was principal lecturer and ran the BA Fine Art course at the Hertfordshire College of Art and Design, now the University of Hertfordshire, from the 1970s until the 1990s.
“A spray gun atomises the paint, it’s the smallest dot you can have. It was like a raincloud of colour on the canvas, building up. Here you have very strange colours forming as they fall over each other – brilliant orange one moment, then red, then crimson, then purple, then a warm brown. The colour keeps on building and building like that, then you go round the colour clock again.“
After the 1970s, Graham’s work went in a more tactile direction.
“I really do like to handle thick, juicy paint now,“ he says. “I work very spontaneously now, whereas the spray paint works would take me several weeks. I began to feel there wasn’t enough tactile feeling to them. This new way of working gives me a kind of dialogue with the painting – as Jackson Pollock said, there’s a give and take with the painting, you have to listen to it, respond to it.
“As you get older, it’s a journey you’re going on with your work. You can’t just keep doing the same thing, you have to get into unknown territory.“
New Possibilities: Abstract Paintings from the Seventies is at the Piper Gallery, Newman Street, Soho until Friday, December 21 during opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 6pm. Details: 020 7148 0350, www.thepipergallery.com