Magazine article The Spectator

Exhibitions Altered Images

Magazine article The Spectator

Exhibitions Altered Images

Article excerpt

Derek Hyatt; Meetings on the Moor:

The Bishopdale Paintings Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter's Street, N1, until 27 July Frank Dobson Sculptor 1886-1963 Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, W1, until 7 July An important part of the critic's role is to search out artists, living or dead, whose work has disappeared from general view, and to attempt some kind of reassessment of their value. The trouble with most coverage of the visual arts today is that the same few artists are constantly written about because their work is currently fashionable.

Editors seem not to encourage their critics to be wide-ranging. Meanwhile, museums and galleries are not readily inspired to put on exhibitions of less well-known painting and sculpture because they're primarily concerned with high visitor attendance and sales. As a result, the public is not best served - and neither are the artists. In an attempt to buck the trend, this review focuses on a painter and a sculptor who both deserve serious scrutiny.

Derek Hyatt was born in Ilkley in 1931, and has lived most of his painting life in Yorkshire where he still works. After an early training at Leeds and Norwich art schools, he came to London's Royal College of Art (1954-8), and soon began to exhibit his work professionally. He showed with Waddington's in the 1970s, and then briefly with Austin/Desmond, and although he's had 50 one-man shows since 1958, he hasn't exhibited in London for nearly 20 years, so his work is no longer familiar to the capital's gallery-going public. Inevitably he's better known and appreciated in the north of England, but it's about time his remarkable paintings were made more widely available.

Art Space Gallery's new show is thus highly opportune.

Hyatt paints on board, rather than canvas, so he can keep altering the image, rubbing back and restating his intentions. He likes to quote the Italian historian Giambattista Vico's definition of imagination as 'the memory rearranged', and this is his own approach to painting the landscape that he loves. All is change, until the final image is discovered through the process of painting.

As he says, 'Landscape itself is about substances changing in weather, lit by changing light.'

Hyatt aims to convey to the viewer a sense of the reality of change against the solid backdrop of stone and moor. Painting for him is not a record of appearances but an investigation into the mysterious heart of things. His understanding of history and myth enriches his approach to landscape and endows his imagery with signs and portents, whether taken from the natural world and the cycle of the seasons, or from the impacted trace of man's own history etched into the rock.

The group of small paintings (very affordably priced at around £1,500 each) that forms the core of this magical exhibition lies at the very centre of Hyatt's endeavour over the past 30 years. Most have never before been exhibited, and together with some impressive larger paintings, they offer a substantial account of Hyatt's artistic preoccupations. The first thing to notice is the telling disposition of strong and exciting colour; the second is the frequent juxtaposition of linearity and transparency; the third is the sheer variety of mark and texture. The beautiful small paintings tend to be more direct and declarative, while the larger panels are often distilled into something altogether more allegorical and complex. Extraordinary formal invention makes its distinctive appeal through all these paintings, although some images need more decoding than others. Hyatt is a master of shape-music and colour-combination, also of metaphor and meaning, reserving a fluidity of style through which to generate his visions. …

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