OLD CONTEMPORARIES

Hornsey Alumni

John Pearce, Crouch End 1960

When these artists were students, the Beatles, Flower Power and Art School ‘sit ins’ were yet to come. Edith Sitwell, Picasso and Jean Paul Sartre were still alive. Despite student grants and a welfare state, what with the Cold War, the ‘Four Minute Warning’ and the Cuban Missile Crisis, few of them thought they’d see 60.

Born in the shadow of war, and into the confused aftermath of early twentieth century Modernism, their formative influences lay in the challenges of abstraction and figuration. But as each passing decade brought successive art movements, they lived to see painting itself sidelined or reduced to an instruction manual, and sculpture to an empty plinth.

Leaving Art College, they subsidised their own art practice – not, as in the present artistic climate, by pursuing state support or corporate funding, but as teachers, glass blowers, picture restorers, sign painters, illustrators or park-keepers. One worked first as a water bailiff in Scotland, then on a trawler off the coast of Senegal. They had characteristically enquiring minds, and travelled, usually by bus, to Egypt, Turkey, the Soviet Union, and Mongolia.

This website brings together some old friends and long-lost colleagues who attended Art College in the nineteen-sixties, and who have continued their artistic practice, in some form, throughout nearly sixty years of political, personal and artistic vicissitudes, and with varying degrees of recognition or encouragement. To try to account for their sustained motivation, their artistic testimonies are presented alongside their work.

The works demonstrate direct observation, memory, imagination and abstraction, and include remarkable and previously unseen pieces. 

John Pearce 22nd January 2019

Please scroll down and click on smaller grouped images to view them.

Terence Vincent Howe

‘My aim is to achieve in paint a dramatic comment on the visual world, including the art of the past, and especially the art of the 20th century.”

Terence Vincent Howe, Self Portrait, charcoal, 1960

Terence studied painting and stained glass at Hornsey College of Art 1959 – 1965, and acknowledges the influence of his tutors, particularly Alan Green, David Tindle, Heinz Koppel, Sam Rabin, Ruth Duckworth, Allin Braund and Arnold Hauser. 

Terence Vincent Howe, Self Portrait, oil, 1961

Terence was one of the most talented in his group at Hornsey Art College. His works from that era showed a distinctive colour sense which continues to evolve. He now spends most of his time developing his own ideas in painting taking inspiration from many sources in music, art and literature, but above all from nature, and his work seeks to preserve moments of heightened consciousness, or ‘peak experiences’.

Stained glass 1963– Angel Sun & Moon

“My paintings represent my feelings, and the joy of existence in this strange and beautiful world we inhabit, with all its contradictions.

The Fair – 2014

Terence has had several solo and joint exhibitions at venues including Lauderdale House in Highgate, and Wood Green library. In the late 1980s he developed a deepening interest in past painting techniques, and has worked for many years as a picture restorer and conservator. 

“Carl Jung sums up my thoughts:

‘Being essentially the instrument of his work [the artist] is subordinate to it, and we have no right to expect him to interpret it for us. He has done his utmost by giving it form, and must leave the interpretation to others and to the future.’

(C. G. Jung, ‘Modern Man in Search of a Soul’, tr. Cary F. Baynes 1961)”

Terence Vincent Howe, Red Nude

Christopher Chapman

Chris Chapman, Self Portrait, charcoal, 1960

“Painting is the most demanding thing I know. It is difficult, elusive and the variables involved appear to be infinite. When things go well it can be satisfying and, briefly, fulfilling. At other times it can be frustrating and seem completely futile. There is no rational explanation for continuing with it. Like others I know I have stopped, occasionally for considerable periods of time, but I always seem to be ineluctably drawn back to it, as if some gravitational pull were at work”

Chris was born in St Albans in 1943. He went to Hornsey Art School in 1960 aged 16. In 1967 he gained a painting scholarship to Milan. The light, colour and architecture of Italy made a profound and lasting impression.

Chris has continued travelling to Italy almost every year, exploring different aspects of the country.

Red Wall 2010, oil on canvas 42″x40″

Chris has had Solo Exhibitions at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, 1977, Libri Einaudi, Milan, 1979 and 1982, & Galleria delle Ore, Milan, 1984, 1987 and 1990. He has exhibited in Group Exhibitions at Galleria delle Ore, 1988, 1993, RA Summer Exhibition 1996 and Jill George Gallery 1998.

Cliff Walk 2011, Redwood 2011, Pine, Mediterranean 2018, Water Meadow 1961.

To see more, click on: CHRISTOPHER CHAPMAN

Timothy Wilson

Tim Wilson: Self Portrait, oil on canvas.

“I went to Hornsey Art School at 16 years of age knowing nothing about art. I always felt that there were secrets to which I was not privy. I just wanted to paint. Artists had ‘something to say’ – I just wanted to mutter quietly to myself.”

Tim Wilson (10th April 1943 – 10th Sept 2017) attended Hornsey College of Art from 1959-1963 obtaining the NDD in Painting and Stained Glass. 

After various employments, including working in a bookshop, a Christmas tree factory and a spell of school teaching, Tim found a job in the art workshop of Oddbins in Clerkenwell.

When Oddbins stopped having hand-painted shop-fronts in the late l980s, the small group of artists carried on as freelance sign-painters, achieving particular recognition for their decoration of the bridge at Camden Lock in 1989, and when Tim’s design for a hoarding won the 1990 Hillier Parker Hoarding of the Year prize.

Tim has worked on various film sets, including The Borrowers (1997), the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough (1999), and Harry Potter films. He worked as a professional freelance painter of pictures, signs, decorative pieces etc. and on his own paintings.

 Like many artists, in the absence of another sitter, Tim often resorted to himself as model. This has resulted in a series of self-portrait studies of the human head remarkable for their objectivity and candour. Tim’s interest in painting is just that – painting.

Some much earlier head studies (from 1964) form a very different series. They are equally explorations of form – perhaps also self-portraits, sensed from within. Tim insisted they were purely objective studies, neither agonised nor ‘Afro’. It’s hard to fully credit this, knowing Tim’s lifelong regard for the Blues and early Jazz masters, such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and King Oliver.

John Nelson Pearce

Self Portrait, Newcastle 1964, acrylic on canvas (detail)

“Working on a painting is like connecting up a complex transmitting device, or resolving a code. I wait for a message to come through, for the painting to speak, and, when it does so, my involvement with it ends.”

The Tyne from Jarrow, Acrylic on board 16″x29″ 1964

Born in North London in 1942, John Pearce studied painting and stained glass at Hornsey College of Art, and Art Education at Newcastle University.

Pearce exhibited in the Young Contemporaries in 1962 and also won the Hornsey Art College Sketch Club prize, the visiting judge being L.S. Lowry. After leaving art college he forsook his earlier symbolist style to paint exclusively from direct observation, notably the so-called ‘plantscapes’.

Blackberries in August, Muswell Hill, acrylic on board, 3′ x 4′ 1980

Each of these paintings represents many consecutive days of intense plein-air observation, usually totalling several months. His work is in private and public collections, including The Museum of Nature in Art, Gloucester and London’s Guildhall Art Gallery. He has exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, The Geffrye Museum, The Francis Kyle Gallery, The Rye Art Gallery and John Davies Gallery.

Herbe Folle, 2000, oil on canvas 4’x 5’4″

“Many painters, including myself in the past, have worked in the timeless Olympian detachment of the studio. Here one can work on a canvas, set it aside and come back to it, sometimes years later, or be occupied with several works at once. Working outdoors is the exact opposite: There I am occupied with a single work embodying my presence and observation in a unique location and span of time. Time is integral to the painting’s subject, and, as Graham Sutherland said ‘I am the figure in the landscape’.”

Above: PLANTSCAPES – Tree House, oil on canvas 40″x30″ 2007 – Les Bouillons, oil on canvas 4’x3′ 2002 – Midsummer Oil on canvas 32″x24″ 2005 – Clement’s Garden, Oil on panel 4’x3′ 1986.

Gerry Keon

Gerry Keon, RIZLA Self-Portrait

“Paintings are long and complicated enterprises. The form, which appears to exist within the materials, has to be discovered through a journey, a sequence of events neither linear nor simple. The result cannot be cajoled or forced.” 

Born in Dorset in 1942, Gerry’s family moved to London in 1945. He studied painting at Hornsey College of Art 1959-1962, and Byam Shaw College of Art 1962-1963.

North London Link 72 x 66″  (183 x 167 cm)

Keon’s work is in permanent collections including The Guildhall Art Gallery, London, The Arts Council of England, The Edward F. Albee Foundation, New York, and Ivan and Marilynn Karp, New York

Though committed to abstraction throughout his career, Gerry is a fine draughtsman who describes himself as: “fascinated by the familiar – the shock of the Quotidian”.

Between 1988 and 1999 Gerry Keon’s work began to reflect the Urban world around him. His ‘London’ paintings are studio works distilling a recognisable world through human empathy, visual memory and abstract composition:

North Acton Station  –  54 x 29″  (137 x 74 cm)

Solo exhibitions include Air Gallery, Francis Kyle Gallery, London,1991, 1994, 1996 and 1998; Granger Gallery, Whitstable 2008, OK Harris Gallery, New York, 2009.

Open exhibitions include: Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition -2002, 2003, 2009, and 2010, the Discerning Eye, 2003, 2005, 2009, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010.

Fountain of Youth (Lunchtime Tryst)

“My paintings have, quite literally, to grow; figures emerge from constant erasure, gradually becoming real personalities. They arrive.”

Judgement of Paris –56 x 85″  (142 x 216 cm) 1994

This painting passed through many stages, its final identity only emerging as it neared completion. Keon had begun with the idea of “The Three Graces”, a reference to Antonio Canova’s marble sculpture which at the time of painting was in the news. Another transient theme was youth and age, celebrated in his earlier drawing of an elderly couple kissing on a park bench beside a drinking fountain.

Above – Gerry Keon transcriptions: Michelangelo, Poussin, Van der Weyden.

Abstract works in various media by Gerry Keon

John Parsons

Early Self Portrait

“As a child I spent much time in Norfolk, and have always been interested in natural history. As an adolescent I read Aristotle and Koestler from my father’s book shelf, and developed an interest in philosophy and religion. At art school this was furthered by reading Jung.”

Common Frog watercolour early 1980s

John Parsons studied printmaking and painting at Hornsey Art College, and went on to teach in the printmaking department at St Martin’s School of Art until the late sixties.

His questing spirit and wide cultural scope influenced all aspects of his life as well as his graphic work, painting and sculpture. Tantric Buddhism, elements of Hinduism such as Yogic Spirals, Lingams, Yonis and Yantras are reflected in his abstract paintings. He feels that his spot paintings reflected contemporary atomic theory, cosmology, and the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

John’s interest in Jung, and in particular the ‘archetypal’ imagery explored in Erich Neuman’s ‘The Great Mother’ (1955), shows up in his earliest stone carvings.

Early Limestone Goddess

In the early sixties, while teaching printing at St Martin’s, John Parsons became interested in haiku: “I made a few stumbling attempts, but none of them, it seemed to me, were able to catch that ‘moment’….I began to write concrete poems. These fitted in very well with the ideas behind my prints and paintings. I was largely involved in etching, a process of eating surfaces away. Almost sculptural, it appealed to my interest in building two dimensional sculptures from words…Eventually I took up stone carving. My Grandfather was a master mason, it was in the blood. I carved huge quantities of stone away, to arrive at the mere bones of an idea.” 

In the late nineties John met the young Irish poet James Hogan (Augustus Young) who had the idea of writing ‘word sonnets’- fourteen words arranged perpendicularly on the page.

“I liked the idea, which required paring down an original idea to its bones, but haiku couldn’t have been farther from my mind.” Later, John had a revelation: when he arranged them in three lines, the word sonnets became haiku! “I’d been writing them all along. Armed with a fresh attitude and a touch of Zen from the Hippie days, I wrote some and sent them off to Colin Blundell, editor of the British Haiku Society Journal at the time, who accepted them. I had become a published haiku poet.”

John’s Book ‘Overhead Whistling’ was a prizewinner in the 2011 Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards

Besides publishing books of Haiku and other poems, Parsons has exhibited in Young Contemporaries, The Graven Image, AIA Gallery, Curwen Press, Milan Print Biennale, Halesworth Gallery, Christies Contemporary Art, World’s End Gallery, East Meets West, Norwich Castle Museum, John Russel Gallery

LINKS:

John Pearce – https://johnnpearceartist.com/

John Pearce – http://plantcurator.com/john-pearces-plant-soliloquies/

Gerry Keon – http://www.gerrykeon.com/

John Parsons – https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2015/02/06/bookstories-11-john-parsons-choosing-the-stone/

John Parsons – http://johnrparsons.blogspot.com/

John Parsons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Richard_Parsons

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