Opening tonight is Albert Irvin's exhibition at Gimpel Fils which runs until 15 January. Since the 1950s Albert Irvin has been exploring the possibilities of paint, colour and the non-figurative form. Born in London in 1922, Irvin attended Northampton School of Art from 1940-1941, when he began his service in the Royal Air Force. In 1946 he resumed his studies at Goldsmiths, where he subsequently became a tutor. In 1982 Gimpel Fils held its first solo exhibition of his work, and we have exhibited his work regularly ever since. The Serpentine Gallery held a major retrospective of his work in 1990, and Irvin was elected a Royal Academician in 1998 and an honorary member of the Royal West of England Academy in 1999.
Taking its title from Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable”, by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, this new body of work is testament to Irvin’s unwavering belief in art’s centrality to life.
The impact of music on Irvin’s belief system has been previously documented; his admiration of Alfred Brendel and Harrison Birtwhistle is well known, for example. In this exhibition however, he has turned to the sentiments expressed in Nielsen’s “The Inextinguishable”. Inextinguishable, translated from the Danish “uudslukkelige” which can also be interpreted as ‘life-force’, relates to that which is inextinguishable: life; energy; spirit. Written during 1916 in the midst of the First World War, Nielsen wished to express “the elemental will to live”.
A statement by Nielsen has been at the forefront of Irvin’s mind recently: “The most elementary aspects of music are Light, Life and Motion. … It’s all those things that have Will, and the Craving for Life that cannot be suppressed, that I’ve wanted to depict”.
Here is a video from his retrospective at Kings Place last year.