Arabian Night [3/67] is one of six paintings Moon produced in 1967 using a Y-shaped canvas. In this case the canvas is painted black. Stripes painted across the three prongs of the ‘Y’ in pink, orange and yellow define a black triangle at its centre. The geometrical pattern of coloured stripes imposed on a black ground creates a sense of movement around the static triangle.
Moon was one of a generation of British abstract painters that emerged in the early 1960s. Before becoming an artist full time, he studied law at Christ’s College, Cambridge (1954–7) and then worked in advertising. In 1960 he encountered Situation: An Exhibition of British Abstract Painting at the Galleries of the Royal Society of British Artists, London, and later commented: ‘[it was] like getting the whole message of what modern painting was about’ (quoted in Livingstone, [p.1]).
Moon began to experiment with unusual canvas shapes in 1964 when he made a series of eight triangular paintings. Blue Rose (T01033) dates from the same year he produced Arabian Night [3/67] but in this case he has inverted the Y form of T12241. Moon used stripes differently in both of these exotically-titled works. In Blue Rose the stripes are white and blue, and, rather than running the colours across the ‘arms’ of the Y shape as in Arabian Night, Moon has arranged them along the form’s contours. However, both works have in common, it seems, the play of motion and stillness invoked by the arrangement of lines on the shaped canvas. In 1970, Moon commented: ‘I hate the static things in painting. I like the painting to be a kind of constant flow’, and, interviewed in 1973, he elaborated: ‘I don’t really like ... paintings which carry the idea of movement or flow into a very literal form [because] it isn’t necessary to do that in painting. It seems that all the rhythms and flow and life and vitality in painting actually operates when the painting itself is one static harmonious form’ (quoted in Jeremy Moon, 1976, pp.9–10).
These works have formal qualities in common with American hard-edge abstract art: large, non-representational paintings composed of flat colour areas. Some of Moon’s works using line find a parallel in the stripe paintings of Frank Stella (born 1936), such as Hyena Stomp 1962 (T00730), in terms of the way that line is often made to emphasise the shape of the support (Livingstone, [p.3].) Stella also experimented with differently-shaped canvases. In the mid-1960s he produced his ‘Notched-V’ series of paintings, such as Empress of India 1965 (New York, Museum of Modern Art), a work composed of four joined, chevron-shaped panels.
By the early 1970s Moon had established a reputation in Britain and was beginning to become known internationally. He died in a motorcycle accident in 1973.
Jeremy Moon: Paintings and Drawings 1962–1973, Serpentine Gallery, London 1976.
Marco Livingstone, ‘Moon-Gazing: Watching Paintings Unfold’, in Jeremy Moon – A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council, London 2001, [pp.1-5].
Janet MacKenzie, ‘Mr Jeremy Moon Experiments. Jeremy Moon: Drawings and Collage’, Studio International, May 2005, http://www.studio-international.co.uk/search/index.asp
, accessed 30 July 2009.