‘New Worlds’ certainly heralded the beginning of a new start in post-war 1960’s Britain. New towns such as Kirkby were built in a period of renewed optimism and part of a new wave of development orchestrated by a generation of architects and planners who wanted to improve the way people lived.
It was an exciting time for the country with the launch of new consumer products, advertising and packaging to more liberal attitudes and a youth culture obsessed with music and fashion. British art took fresh inspiration from this embarking on a new phase of experimentation and development.
Kirkby Gallery has worked with the Arts Council to bring a dedicated exhibition to this small town of Liverpool. An interesting time for them to hold it as the town is currently underway with a new phase of demolition and rebuilding. So the similarities with its beginning in the Sixties is paralleled here as modernisation shows no sign of slowing.
The works of art on display offer up a mixture of abstract painting and printmaking to otherworldly sculptures made out of different materials reflective of the new world they were inhabiting. From The Boyle Family’s ‘Olaf Street Study’ made of brick, mixed media, resin and board, it forms part of their ‘Earth Studies’ which takes the materials (brick and concrete) under our feet and presents it as ‘sculptural paintings’. Hepworth and Moore also feature as radical sculpture artists of their time, alongside the dynamic bronze ‘Astur’ by famous Manx artist Bryan Kneale.
There’s no missing the mass layers of congealed paint by Frank Auerbach in ‘Primrose Hill Summer Sunshine’ or John Hoyland’s stunningly effective ‘Gouache (Orange/Green). Totally different to Auerbach in application yet its layering brings about a fresh interaction of colour and pictorial composition. Thick and thin washes of gouache in hues of greens, orange and brown that supersede and interact with each other on the paper surface. Albert Irvin’s ‘Evening’ and Terry Frost’s ‘Ginger & Purple Chirpy’ are a masterclass in abstract painting. Numerous screenprints also take centrestage with the dizzying ‘Print No 3’ by Bridget Riley, Gillian Ayres’ ‘Untitled Screenprint’ as well as examples by David Hockney, Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi and Patrick Caulfield. Their undulating wizardry of shapes, form and colour confound me. Perfectly reminiscent of the Sixties.
It’s amazing to think that it’s free to enter this magical room of art by the leading artists of our time and it’s no wonder that the idealised philosophy of how we would live and play also inspired this fantastic era of contemporary art. The intertwining worlds of old and new are apparent to see in this exhibition. Though colour and personal identity aimed to override the brutalist conforms of concrete building and re-organisation!
On until 7th May