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60 years of John Moores Painting Prize. Part 1

August 20, 2018

It was a grey drizzly day yesterday so making the most of it, we headed over to Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery to take in the Sean Scully exhibtion, also view and help celebrate 60 years of the John Moores Painting Prize.

Taking in some of the sixties, seventies and more recent architecture on the way.

Sean Scully was a prizewinner in the 1972 John Moores Painting Prize and again in 1974. He is widely regarded as the master of post-minimalist abstraction. Revolutionising abstract painting with grid systems of intersecting bands and lines, his artwork uses the shapes and forms of concrete geometry, infused with a lyrical emotion. They create great visual depth and textile-like complex structures.

in this exhibition, Sean revisits his early works which reveal the origin of his continued fascination between stripes and the spaces inbetween. In the summer of 1969, he travelled to Marrakech and saw for three months, thousands of stripes in the streets. On returning to Newcastle he drove over one of the Iron Bridges and made his mind up there and then to make a striped painting.

These works on paper are taken from his student sketchbooks and made between 1967-69. He had left school by the age of 15 and trained as a typesetter amongst other part time jobs. In his apprenticeship he was trained to work with a pen and ruler, These drawings show Sean’s reliance on these tools, until the confidence of freehand expression begins to assert itself.

The John Moores Painting Prize entry criteria, award structure and prize money has changed over the years. Until 1965, although not every year, as well as a painting section there were categories for sculpture, French and junior artists. From 1969, sculptures, kinetics, watercolours and graphic arts were firmly excluded in favour of painting.

Here’s a small selection of some of the past winning finalists.

This is one of my favourite paintings from past years. ‘Harmony in Green’ by Dan Hays, 1977. It demonstrates a traditional artistic concern with te truthful representation of visual reality. Dan adopts a very shallow perspective and an unusual treatment of the spaces between the bars. The colours form a random, harmonious pattern. The work’s title is also the sub-title of a water-lily painting by Monet. Dan recalled Impressionism as he worked on this, stating “Green is the colour of nature.” Since winning the John Moores Painting Prize in 1997, he has continued to exhibit internationally.

This year the exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is open now until the 18th of November so you’ve plenty of time to pop over and see it. I will be revealing my own personal selection from this years entries, later this week so catch up again here at Fishinkblog then. Happy start to your week everyone.

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