Adrian Heath: Mysterious and Sensual
This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Adrian Heath (23 June 1920, Maymo, Burma - 15 September 1992, Castelnau de Montmiral, France) - one of Britain's most acclaimed abstract painters of the post-war era.
Adrian Heath’s great gifts as an abstract painter were consistently reinforced and guided by the idealism felt and shared by an entire generation of post-war abstract artists working in England.
Heath's contribution to post-war British art was distinguished not only through the example of his own painting but also manifest in a good deal of hard practical work on behalf of his fellow artists. He helped to organise the first post-war show of abstract art at the AIA gallery in 1951 and published an essay on Abstract Art: its origin and meaning in 1953. He was chairman of the political idealist AIA (Artists International Association) from 1954 to 1964 and served on the Arts Council's advisory art panel from 1964 to 1967.
His first solo exhibition was held at the Museé de Beaux-Arts, Carcassonne, France in 1948, and from 1953 he showed at the Redfern Gallery, London.
It is unexpectedly difficult to associate Heath’s schematic preparatory drawings with particular paintings because the initial plan becomes heavily overlaid in the painting process. He meticulously surveyed the area of his canvas, prospecting for new compositional possibilities. The dry accounts he gives of the drawings made around the time of his first one-mas show at the Redfern Gallery in 1953 do not do much to prepare one for the paintings themselves; he describes them as ‘measured diagrams illustrating the progressive displacement of the areas that had themselves been derived from the format of the canvas’.
In the first half of the 1960’s a constant and very traditional reliance on drawing as a preliminary to painting’ became the fundamental element in his approach to his work, and remained so, in spite of various changes of style, for the rest of his life.
As the paintings themselves became more spontaneous and casual in appearance Heath was working from numerous landscape and figure drawings, sketch after sketch done at speed; a few of these would be selected as the subject of new drawings, usually in another medium and often after a considerable passage of time during which their original significance had vanished. And if at a later stage the painting became ‘confused or ran out of steam’, he would make more drawings from the painting itself to help ‘clarify my intentions or to formulate new ideas’.
The works on paper in various combinations of oil, gouache, ink, watercolour, collage , crayon and sometimes household paint, are full of unambiguous romantic feeling that is a little reminiscent of Graham Sutherland’s drawings of the 1940s.
This new exciting online exhibition provides the opportunity to view previously unseen small works on paper and card executed between 1963 and 1991.
All works are for sale.
Gouache and pencil on card
28 x 25 cm / 11 x 9 7/8inches
Inscribed and dated ’91 verso
Acrylic and pencil on card
30.5 x 30.5 cm / 12 x 12 inches
Signed with initials and dated ‘71’; inscribed and dated ’70-71’ verso