10-11 July : 1992 is a large, landscape-oriented oil painting featuring a complex composition of abstract forms painted in lines in varying hues on a white ground. Aside from occasional instances of black and brown, the predominant colours are bright tones of violet, orange, yellow and aquamarine, which describe the outlines of leafy forms. A triangular shape with a thin violet outline at the top left of the painting is one of the only elements filled with colour – a single shade of aquamarine paint, applied unevenly in thick, expressive brushstrokes. Above the triangle is an orange line roughly describing a small circle, and the proximity of these two elements may suggest a sun rising or setting above a horizon, possibly a seascape. To the right of this is a wavy chain of thick black, yellow and brown marks in soft rounded shapes that bring to mind leaves or pebbles, and this line reaches from the top of the canvas to its lower edge, bisecting the composition roughly into two parts. At the right side of the composition are a number of rectangular shapes, lines and evenly spaced dots in different colours, behind which is painted a partial background of yellow hatching. Most of the composition is left white, giving the work a bright appearance and enhancing the rich tones of the colours as well as their ambiguous shapes, and this, as well as the painting’s title, suggests that it depicts a summer scene.
This work was made in 1992 by the British artist Patrick Heron in his studio in Porthmeor, Cornwall, which was formerly owned by the painter Ben Nicholson and to which Heron had moved in 1958. At this point in his career Heron often painted quickly with oils that were used straight from the tube, applying them to white primed canvas but leaving many parts unpainted. In 10-11 July : 1992 the lilac lines that describe certain shapes may have been laid down at an earlier stage than the patches of colour, stripes and crosshatchings around them. The plant forms appear to have been scribbled rapidly with a brush late in the process of the painting’s execution and there are several thick lines and daubs of white oil paint that could have been applied straight from the tube.
Heron’s paintings from the 1960s to the 1980s are characterised by the interplay of large forms presented on dense colour fields using a rich palette of purples, reds and blues (see, for instance, Cadmium with Violet, Scarlet, Emerald, Lemon and Venetian : 1969 1969, Tate T03660). By contrast, from the time of Heron’s artist residency at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney between November 1989 and February 1990 he began to use a palette of paler, fresher tones and to leave parts of the primed white canvas bare, stating in 1991 that ‘I like to think that these Sydney paintings and gouaches have new spatial configurations, new images and constructions, and new colours (paler? sharper?), which owe their origin to my daily walks through Sydney’s great Botanic Gardens – but also to my frequent visits to the Bush at West Head.’ (Patrick Heron, ‘A Note on the Sydney Paintings’, in Patrick Heron Sydney Paintings and Gouaches 1989–1990, exhibition guide, Waddington Galleries, London, April 1991.) The curator and art historian Andrew Wilson has noted that Heron’s Sydney paintings show a ‘greater awareness of the white primed surface of the canvas as a colour space in its own right’, and that ‘line and colour are real in themselves and do not exist solely to project a represented image’ (Wilson 2001, p.17). These effects can be seen in paintings such as Sydney Garden Painting December 1989 II 1989 and in those made in the years following Heron’s return to England, such as 10-11 July : 1992.
The curator and critic Mel Gooding has described Heron’s paintings from 1989 onwards as the ‘unmistakably late works of a master who no longer gives a damn, and is happy to share his vision with all who are prepared to see the world with his own entranced eye’ (Gooding 1994, p.254). Furthermore, Gooding argues that this constitutes a new, freer approach to abstraction in Heron’s work, stating of this painting in particular that ‘10-11 July – with its magical plans and pebbles – pure lines of paint, exuberant and witty: these are the fruits of an unencumbered spirit, of a visual imagination that will not be constrained by rule or preconception’ (Gooding 1994, p.254).
Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, London 1994, p.254, reproduced p.252.
Martin Gayford and David Sylvester, Patrick Heron, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1998, reproduced p.15.
Andrew Wilson, Patrick Heron: Early and Late Garden Paintings, London 2001.
Supported by Christie’s.