Thursday, 1 March 2012

John Cecil Stephenson 'Pioneer of Abstraction' County Durham, England

John Cecil Stephenson, title unknown, c.1933-39

John Cecil Stephenson exhibition, 'Pioneer of Abstraction'  at Durham Art Gallery

Not a hugely known artist on the international stage, Stephenson is known in Britain for being a pioneer of abstraction, when there were few modernists around especially from County Durham.  This will be the first major study of his work in the region including works on loan from national institutions and private collections. Much of the abstraction in the Uk at the time was of a Constructivist nature and the works need to be seen in that context. The artist talks taking place during the exhibition explore this influence, see the list below. On graduating he moved to Mall Studios, Hampstead where his neighbours and immediate circle included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Piet Mondrian, Naum Gabo, Henry Moore and the art critic Herbert Read.

Stephenson was one of the core modernists of the 1930's; indeed Herbert Read said that "he was one of the earliest artists in this country to develop a completely abstract style". 'Pioneer of Abstraction' will be a survey of John Cecil Stephenson's work between 1933 and 1939 covering his path from figurative painting to abstraction.
John Cecil Stephenson 'Vortex' c.1933-39
Talks on the artist and modernism in England at the gallery:

'Constructivism and English artists' Monday 5th March 12.30-1.30pm. Talk by Professor Stephen Bann, exploring both the Russian/continental origins, and the later, post-1945 developments. Stephen Bann CBE is Emeritus Professor of History of Art and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol. In the 1960/70s, he was closely involved with the historical and contemporary aspects of Constructivism, contributing to the 'Systems' exhibition which toured Britain in 1972/3, and editing the anthology of texts, The Tradition of Constructivism (1974, reprinted 1990).

'Le Synthèse des Arts and the Constructivist dream' Monday 12th March 12.30-1.30. Talk by Professor Alan Powers, looking at the relationship between constructivist art and architecture. Alan Powers is Professor of Architecture and Cultural History at the University of Greenwich. He writes and curates exhibitions about British art, architecture and design in the twentieth century. He has also been active as an artist and printmaker, and as a campaigner for the conservation of buildings.

'The constructivist tradition in European art' on Tuesday 26 March 5.30-6.30pm. Talk by Dr. Alan Fowler, the historical context of John Cecil Stephenson's work. Dr Alan Fowler is an art historian and freelance curator with a specialist interest in constructivist art in Britain and its European context. At Southampton City Art Gallery in 2008 he curated "A Rational Aesthetic" - the largest exhibition of constructive British art ever held in the UK.
All these talks are FREE for everyone.

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