Catalogue entry

Roger Hilton 1911-1975

T01855 Oi Yoi Yoi 1963

Inscribed ‘Oi, yoi, yoi/Hilton/Dec 63’ on the back, also ‘R. Hilton’ where the canvas folds over the stretcher at the bottom.
Oil and charcoal on canvas, 60 x 50 (152·5 x 127).
Purchased from the artist through the Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1974.
Exh: Venice Biennale, 1964 (British Pavilion, unnumbered, repr.) and European tour; Serpentine Gallery, March 1974 (76, repr. in colour and on the cover).
Repr: Robertson, Russell, Snowdon, Private View, 1965, p.110.

The artist made another version of this painting in December 1963. Entitled ‘Dancing Woman’ it was also exhibited in Hilton’s retrospective exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in March 1974 (77).

In a dictated answer (10 May 1974) to a questionnaire from the compiler Hilton stated that ‘Oi Yoi Yoi’ was painted first and that this was the only instance in his career of his repeating a work. He added ‘I did this because I thought it was a good picture and because I wanted to use different colours.’

When asked about the subject of the painting Hilton replied ‘It was my wife dancing on a verandah, we were having a quarrel. She was nude and angry at the time and she was dancing up and down shouting “oi yoi yoi”.’ Rose Hilton added the further information, in conversation with David Brown (10 May 1974), that the incident which inspired the painting took place before she married Roger Hilton. It happened when they were on holiday together in the country in France during the summer of 1962.

To the question did Hilton see the painting as having any wider relevance to the time it was painted he answered ‘I don’t make social comments, my work is always based on something personal.’ Asked whether he was conscious of working within a great tradition of figure painting—especially dancers and bathers—and whether Cézanne and Matisse were important in this respect, Hilton replied ‘No! not conscious’, but added: ‘probably subconsciously’.

To a query as to whether he was conscious of the new sense of freedom some artists seemed to feel at this time with regard to the relative claims of figurative and abstract art, Hilton replied ‘I had resolved the problem and it didn’t exist for me by the sixties. I made the most extreme abstract exhibition in London in 1954. In ‘56 I had another show at Gimpel Fils, where I was already veering towards figuration trying [ ? illegible] to avoid the all-pervading influence of Picasso.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.