John Plumb

About the Artist:

John Pumb

Born 6 February 1927 at Luton.

“In the late seventies I decided to return from abstraction to a figurative area of expression, but I did not want to involve myself in what has been called “homeless representation”. This refers to an area of painting where the elements and idioms of abstract painting are imposed on a figurative concern. My decision, instead, was to grab hold of the figurative nettle and make paintings which would appear to be almost symmetrical to nature. I worked in this way for about 10 years.

I moved from London to a house by a river in Surrey, and looking at the river’s surface and reflections, and its many moods, rhythms, and play of light had a great influence on my work. The horizon in each painting moved higher and higher until I was only concerned with the distortions created by light and movement on the surface of the water. New shapes and freedoms presented themselves to my working process. This led me to use a larger surface to move the rhythms and colours into a more direct form of resolution.

At the end of 1993 I moved from Surrey to North Devon. My response to the change of environment was reflected in my working process, mainly in my use of colour as evidenced in the paintings from 1994 onwards. In 1997 and 1998 I stopped work owing to a degenerative eye condition and poor general health (due to heart problems). I started again in 1999.

One of the constant factors in my process of working is the emotive dialogue I have with scale and materials in painting. Owing to the problems of age and fading eyesight I have had to create limitations in my working process so that the dialogue can continue. For about ten years now I have been building surfaces by spraying colour grounds of varying hue on the stretched white primed canvas. Once the surface I want has been achieved I respond by squeezing large tubes of acrylic colour directly onto the canvas, and this results in an iconographic element loosely relating to handwriting. This final application of marks is achieved with speed in a kind of dance by the painter reacting to the whole large surface. These paintings are not descriptive of any direct experience but are analogues for a variety of stimuli and actions which have been part of my life as a painter. The result is not only what you see, it is what you get as well.

Since the beginning of 2002 I have discontinued the use of the tube as a means of making a linear gesture and am now only using spray guns of various sizes. The process continues.”

Studied at the Luton School of Art 1942–5, the Byam Shaw School 1948–50 and the Central School 1952–5, under Anthony Gross, Victor Pasmore, William Turnbull and Keith Vaughan. Has taught at Luton School of Art 1955-61, Maidstone College of Art 1961-6, and Bennington College, Vermont 1968-9. He became Senior Lecturer in Painting at the Central School of Art and Design, London 1969-1982. Represented in the A.I.A. abstract exhibitions 1953 and 1957, in the ‘Situation’ exhibitions 1960 and 1961 and in a group exhibition at Leverkusen 1961. Group exhibitions since this date include British Painting 1974, Hayward Gallery, London; Art 90, Olympia, London 1990 and Art & the 60s: This Was Tomorrow, Tate Britain, 2004. First one-man exhibition at Gallery One 1957. He has since had solo exhibitions at many galleries throughout the UK, including the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol 1967, London Arts Gallery 1970, Bohun Gallery Henley-on-Thames 1995 and 1997 and The Atkinson Gallery, Somerset 2002. Did murals for the temporary U.I.A. Congress Buildings 1961.

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