Illustrated companion

Patrick Heron settled in Cornwall in 1956 when he was already established as a writer on art as well as a painter. His 1955 book Changing Forms of Art was highly influential. This is one of a group of horizontal stripe paintings made by Heron in 1957-8. Although in effect rigorously abstract it nevertheless, according to Heron, with its 'swept together blending of the bands of parallel colour, gave rise to a suspicion of a possible figurative, land and sea and sky reading.' This possible landscape connotation led him soon to abandon stripes in favour of rectangular forms.

Heron is above all concerned with colour which, he says, is 'both the subject and the means; the form, and the content, the image and the meaning in my painting ...' He has made it clear that the stripes are simply vehicles for the colour: 'Early in 1957, when painting my first horizontal and vertical colour-stripe paintings, the reason why the stripes sufficed as the formal vehicle of the colour was precisely that they were very uncomplicated as shapes. I realised that the emptier the general format was, the more exclusive the concentration upon the experiences of colour itself'. Interestingly, Heron has described the colour composition of this painting in musical terms, writing of '... the stratified spatial bars which ascend in chords of different reds, lemon-yellow, violet and white up the length of my vertical canvas. This particular horizontal stripe painting was made to be part of a new interior scheme for the London offices of the publishers Lund Humphries, which were being refurbished by the architect Trevor Dannatt. The scheme featured a suspended ceiling of wooden slats whose alignment was parallel to the bars of Heron's painting when installed in its given position, a relationship which Heron found extremely intriguing. The commission was given on the basis of Heron's previous horizontal stripe paintings and the painting remains wholly independent when removed from its original setting, as occurred in 1970.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.222