Exhibition catalogue text

Catalogue entry from John Wells: The Fragile Cell

28 Aspiring Forms 1950
Oil on board 106.7 x 71.4
Tate Gallery

Aspiring Forms is among the first in a series of large upright paintings that Wells produced during the 1950s. The composition was inspired by the graceful elegance of bird-flight which Wells observed from his walks along the cliff-tops of west Cornwall. The enlarged scale and pale washes of colour further the impression of a new-found confidence. The painting still relies on a system of geometric grid-lines, but the softened paint layers all but obscure them. The upright division towards the right of the composition and the horizontal which cuts the right-hand spiralling form roughly two-thirds the way up follow the principle of the Golden Section, which Wells used repeatedly as a structure for his work. However, it is the new freedom from the rigidity of geometry that Patrick Heron remarked upon in his review of the painting: 'In Aspiring Forms Well's thought is essentially plastic, even sculptural - the contrapuntal variations ... are expressed not so much in terms of line but of plastic form' (St Ives Times, 7 July 1950).

Published in: Matthew Rowe, John Wells: The Fragile Cell, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, St Ives 1998, p.45, reproduced in colour