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The Presence of Painting: Aspects of British Abstraction 1957 - 1988

Group show at Mappin Art Gallery, Weston Park. 1988 - 1989
Date: 26 November, 1988 until 15 January, 1989
Curator: Michael Tooby
Organiser: Hayward and Regional Exhibitions, South Bank Centre

Frank Bowling was included in the major touring exhibition, The Presence of Painting: Aspects of British Abstraction 1957 - 1988. The exhibition was curated by Michael Tooby and was shown at Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, 26 November 1988 - 15 January 1989. The exhibition then toured to Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, 28 January - 12 March 1989, and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 15 April - 20 May 1989. The exhibition was a product of Hayward and Regional Exhibitions, South Bank Centre and came with a 64 page catalogue.

The exhibition showcased work by some 43 artists, including figures such as Gillian Ayres, Alan DavieSir Terry Frost RAPatrick HeronPeter LanyonBen NicholsonBridget Riley, and Sean Scully. In the catalogue, Joanna Drew, then Director, Hayward and Regional Exhibitions, described the exhibition as “formulated on an ambitious scale to draw together particular strands within a 30 year period of abstract painting in Britain.” (page 2).

The major text in the catalogue was provided by its curator, Michael Tooby. His 7 page “Introduction” began with, “The starting point for this exhibition is 1957. It is from this time that abstract painting in this country is said to have reacted against and been influenced by American Abstract Expressionism, which was first shown in Britain in the late 1950s. The diversity of individual responses evident in this exhibition denies such a simple reading. This exhibition explores the nature of ‘abstraction’ in both current and a range of older painting. By isolating particular, painterly spheres ogf interest, such as the nature of the surface, the role of associative titles and attitudes to working processes, the exhibition provides neither a chronology nor an inclusive, systematic reading of the development of British abstract painting. Instead the selection rests on artists who have shared concerns and affinities. The exhibition is structured to provide a close focus on small clear groups of work, and also to allow an understanding of the development and re-alignment of an older generation of painters  whose work has shifted stylistically throughout their careers.

The essay which follows provides an outline of the circumstances surrounding the making and exhibition of certain works within The Presence of Painting, and in so doing makes available references to the considerable literature on abstract art,” (page 3). The span of practitioners in the exhibition was, in age range, particularly broad. The youngest artist represented in the exhibition was Eleanor Wood, born in 1955 in London, and the oldest artist was Ben Nicholson, born, in 1894 in Denham, Buckinghamshire, any dying in 1982, some years before the exhibition was conceived and curated.

Related items

click to show details of The Presence of Painting: Aspects of British Abstraction 1957 - 1988

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Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1988

click to show details of The Presence of Painting press release

»  The Presence of Painting press release

Press release relating to an exhibition, 1989

People in this exhibition - view 5

»  Gillian Ayres

Born, 1930 in London

»  Martin Ball

Born, 1948

»  Basil Beattie

Born, 1935 in West Hartlepool

»  Frank Bowling OBE, RA

Born, 1935 - 1937 (probably 1936) in British Guiana (now Guyana) Caribbean/S. America

»  Stephen Buckley

Born, 1944 in Leicester

»  John Carter RA

Born, 1942 in Hampton Hill, Middlesex

»  Alan Charlton

Born, 1948 in Sheffield

»  Barrie Cook

Born, 1929 in Birmingham

»  Alan Davie

Born, 1920 in Grangemouth. Died, 2014

»  Robyn Denny

Born, 1930 in Abinger, Surrey, England. Died, 2014

»  Jennifer Durrant RA

Born, 1942 in Brighton

»  Brian Fielding

Born, 1933 in Sheffield. Died, 1985 - 1987 (probably 1986)

»  Sir Terry Frost RA

Born, 1915 in Leamington Spa. Died, 2003

»  Alan Green

Born, 1932 in London

»  Jon Groom

Born, 1953 in Powys, Wales

»  Patrick Heron

Born, 1920 in Headingley, Leeds. Died, 1999

»  Roger Hilton CBE

Born, 1911 in London Borough of Hillingdon

»  Clyde Hopkins

Born, 1946 in Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex. Died, 2018

»  John Hoyland

Born, 1934 in Sheffield. Died, 2011

»  James Hugonin

Born, 1950 in Barnard Castle, County Durham

»  Paul Huxley RA

Born, 1938 in London

»  Albert Irvin OBE RA

Born, 1922 in London. Died, 2015

»  Vanessa Jackson

Born, 1953 in Pealake, Surrey

»  Tess Jaray RA

Born, 1937 in Vienna, Austria

»  William Johnstone

Born, 1897 in Denholm, Scottish Borders. Died, 1981

»  Peter Joseph

Born, 1929

»  Peter Lanyon

Born, 1918 in Cornwall

»  Bob Law

Born, 1934 in Middlesex. Died, 2004

»  Edwina Leapman

Born, 1934

»  Kenneth Martin OBE

Born, 1905 in Sheffield. Died, 1984

»  John McLean

Born, 1939 in Liverpool

»  John Mitchell

Born, 1942 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

»  Jeremy Moon

Born, 1934 in Altrincham. Died, 1973

»  Mick Moon RA (Michael Moon RA)

Born, 1937 in Edinburgh, Scotland

»  Ben Nicholson

Born, 1894 in Denham, Buckinghamshire. Died, 1982

»  Bridget Riley

Born, 1931 in London

»  William Scott CBE RA

Born, 1913 in Greenock, Scotland. Died, 1989

»  Sean Scully

Born, 1945 in Dublin, Ireland

»  Terry Shave

Born, 1952 in Old Newton, Nr. Stowmarket, Suffolk.

»  Yuko Shiraishi

Born, 1956 in Tokyo, Japan

»  Richard Smith CBE

Born, 1931 in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. Died, 2016

»  John Walker

Born, 1939 in Birmingham

»  Eleanor Wood

Born, 1955 in London

Exhibition venues

»  Mappin Art Gallery, Weston Park

Sheffield, United Kingdom