Wednesday, 8 December 2010

John Hoyland interview in Turps Banana

It's 2010 and painting is once again in the ascendancy, also abstraction is reaching a wider audience, whether at the Jerwood Prize, Tate's recent Rothko show or Walker Gallery USA.

Earlier this year I had a conversation with David Moxon about John Hoyland RA and his importance, and it soon turned out we had differing opinions, specifically on his later works. However, when asked by Marcus Harvey to propose an artist to write about for Turps Banana we both independently came up with John Hoyland for our proposal.
Nick Smith
We recognise that John Hoyland is a significant international artist that is shamefully undervalued. This is a man who has been committed to abstract painting for over 50 years, who was friends with Barnett Newman, Helen Frankenthaler, Rothko, and also friends with a major influential painter to me, Robert Motherwell. 

John Hoyland, is now 75 and recently recovered from a heart by-pass and has lost none of the vigour and vim that made his name in the 1960's, whether representing Britain at the Sao Paulo Biennale with Anthony Caro, hanging out with Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Barnett Newman in New York or London. John Hoyland is one of the last of a generation of painters that attended art school in the 1950's when they were being revolutionized by mavericks and were developing the Bauhaus principals that has set them apart internationally. Hoyland has created a style of abstract painting that was against the prevailing figurative painting of the post war years, yet was detached from the more geometric painters of the sixties, such as Bridget Riley, Robyn Denny and Alan Green. He also had little time for the St.Ives painters. Perhaps the influence of the United States on his work was what set him apart from the London scene.

Nick Smith
In this candid interview, John Hoyland discusses his extensive body of work, his recent exhibition of paintings at the Yale Center for British Art. He also explored his misgivings on the younger generation of painters and presented his forthright views on some of his contemporaries.
I appreciated his openness and recognised that his age, status and perhaps having been confronted recently with his own mortality provided him with licence to tell it as he sees it. He is of an influential and disappearing generation of painters. I maintain that he is one of the few painters that searches for new forms at the risk of being uncomfortable and in doing so asks questions about how we perceive harmony in the world, through the paint. He has been focused on this and his commitment to painting is exemplary. He has a palette and marks that are identifiable as his and he had the courage to step away from what his contemporaries were doing. If you are among those that find his work brash loud and rude I urge you to take a look again and appreciate them for their honesty, their enquiries and inventions and the author’s life long commitment to painting.
He has had failures and there are obviously others that have achieved their own idiosyncratic compositions and invented forms of their own but for me John Hoyland is a great artist and unwittingly stands in and has helped describe an Englishness in painting. There are few painters around the world who paint with such freedom.

Nick Smith's excellent studio photographs documented the interview and the set can be viewed here:  Hoyland Album Nick Smith

The full interview can be read in issue 9 of Turps Banana due out on the 15th December.


  1. Bonsoir à Vous, votre solidarité avec john hoyland et votre manière de présenter l'esprit libre de ce peintre courageux dans son aventure picturale m'amène à vous féliciter,merci et à bientôt :-):thibault

  2. Ive been pulling out my bristles in anticipation for issue nine of Turps.

  3. hahaha.artists, fine wine, kettle, worth it.