Ridinghouse is pleased to announce the publication of John Hoyland: The Last Paintings, the first book to survey the final paintings of leading British abstract artist John Hoyland. This extensively illustrated publication brings together four new essays by art critics and historians David Anfam, Natalie Adamson, Matthew Collings and Mel Gooding.
Recognised as one of the most inventive British artists of the twentieth century, Hoyland’s final paintings will be celebrated this summer in the exhibition The Last Paintings taking place at the Millennium Gallery in Hoyland’s home town of Sheffield (until 10 October 2021).
This is the first time Anfam, Adamson and Collings have written on Hoyland’s oeuvre. Their essays provide fresh perspectives on Hoyland’s late works, while Gooding builds on his masterful study of Hoyland throughout the years. These four diverse voices collectively demonstrate the range and complexity of Hoyland’s final paintings, which function both as a meditation on death and a celebration of life.
Mel Gooding’s deeply personal essay describes the emotional tenor of Hoyland’s last series Mysteries. He notes the ‘paradoxical joy’ of the paintings as Hoyland meditates on his own mortality and pays homage to his departed artist friends through paintings such as Elegy (for Terry Frost), which, with its red, yellow, black and white roundel, evokes both Frost’s St Ives home and his art. Gooding situates Hoyland in the context of Henri Matisse’s use of black as a colour, as well as in relation to J.M.W. Turner’s late paintings.
David Anfam considers Hoyland’s cosmic, inter-galactic visual language within a lineage of artists including John Martin, Adolph Gottlieb, Jackson Pollock, Dorothea Rockburne, and above all, Mark Rothko. He demonstrates how Hoyland’s imagery connects deep space with the sensuality of the body.
Natalie Adamson’s essay focuses on the influence of Vincent van Gogh on Hoyland. While Hoyland also dedicated paintings to Matisse and Chaïm Soutine, the significance of Van Gogh is demonstrated by the more than ten works painted by Hoyland in his honour. These began in the 1980s but were especially frequent in the 1990s and 2000s. Adamson shows the importance to Hoyland, late in his life, of connecting his art to a broader history of modernist painting, and to the ability of painting to function as a conversation across time and space.
Matthew Collings explores his own changing relationship with Hoyland’s paintings, as he charts the highs and lows of Hoyland’s career. He places Hoyland’s late paintings within an expressionist tradition, noting his penchant for provocatively and daringly deploying kitsch and vulgarity to subvert both his own and his audience’s taste.