T03362 Saja 1969
Oil and acrylic on canvas 83 7/8 × 66 3/8 (2130 × 1685)
Inscribed on back of canvas ‘Bryan Wynter/“Saja” 1969/84 × 66’
Purchased from the New Art Centre (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Prov: Monica Wynter (the artist's widow) 1975; New Art Centre 1982
Exh: Painting and Sculpture 1970 (Alexander MacKenzie, John Skelton and Bryan Wynter), City Art Gallery, Plymouth, May–June 1970 (92); Bryan Wynter, Exhibition Hall, Devonshire House, Exeter University, April–May 1971 (5); Bryan Wynter 1915–1975, Falmouth School of Art, November–December 1975 (5); Bryan Wynter 1915–1975, Paintings, Kinetics and Works on Paper, Hayward Gallery, August 1976 (70); Bryan Wynter 1964–1974, New Art Centre, March–April 1982 (no catalogue no.); St. Ives 1939–64, Twenty-Five Years of Painting, Sculpture and Pottery, Tate Gallery, February–April 1985 (230, repr.) Also repr: As a postcard for Bryan Wynter Exhibition at the New Art Centre 1982
Mrs Monica Wynter provided the following note on her husband's painting (letter of 2 October 1982):
‘Saja’ was one of three paintings completed in 1969-his productivity during the late sixties and early seventies was very low for a variety of reasons, one being a kind of loss of confidence or an uncertainty over how he should develop images based on themes to do with the movement of water, which so preoccupied him.
It was painted in Trewarvereth Studio, Newlyn-originally [the studio of] Stanhope Forbes, which is where he worked on his paintings. As always, he brought paintings from there back to the house. We were now living at Treverven House... [The Wynters moved there in 1964.] He liked to see paintings in a different situation from where he painted them, sometimes hanging one in the bedroom, so that he could see it in that first moment of awakening, when the eye is not prejudiced by its previous acquaintance with the work. But this looking at the painting in the house was part of the “finishing off” process and essential to him, to be sure that the painting was indeed “finished” or ended. In April of 1969 we had a joint family holiday (his brother Eric and his family) in Northern Spain on the Atlantic coast and in the mountains inland - Los Picos de Europas. There was a lot of canoeing, exploration and photographing - colour slides - of the rivers in this area.
Patrick Heron, a close friend of Wynter's, wrote the introduction to his 1976 retrospective exhibition catalogue and he paid attention to Wynter's great interest in water:
...Wynter was fascinated by coasts and rivers and was an intrepid canoeist. There was not an inch of the savagely rocky coast extending from St Ives to Land's End and round into Mount's Bay which he had not investigated intimately by canoe; and hardly a river or stream in Cornwall he had not explored from its source down. Wherever he went - Wales, Scotland, the North of Spain - the canoes were carried on top of the car.
Mrs Wynter's letter continued:
I can't say now whether ‘Saja’ was begun before this holiday, but its title is the name of one of the rivers [along which] he and Eric canoed, as is ‘Deva’, one of the other paintings from 1969 of similar theme, but very different in colour and ‘feel’ [‘Deva’ is actually given the completion date of 1970] ... the title [‘Saja’] was given on completion. [Bryan Wynter's usual practice was to give his work a title only after the painting was finished.] ‘Saja’ has ‘no direct reference to a particular landscape, but the paintings [‘Saja’ and ‘Deva’ for example] do express his enjoyment of water, rivers and all his activities connected with water, his preoccupation with the movement of water as well as the experience of these particular rivers. This interest in moving water, and his enjoyment of canoeing, were not pursued as a search for a ‘theme’ for paintings - I get the impression that some people get hold of this mistaken idea - but these activities were a part of his total personality, just as his paintings, and indeed anyone's paintings, were an expression of his total personality.
Mrs Wynter felt that the note which Bryan Wynter wrote in January 1960 for Alan Bowness and which was printed in the catalogue for Wynter's posthumous retrospective exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1976 was helpful in explaining the connection between a painting and its source material:
My paintings are non-representational but linked to the products of nature in as much as they are developed according to laws within themselves and are a static record of the processes that have brought them about.
A stream finds its way over rocks. The force of the stream and the quality of the rocks determine the stream's bed... There are no streams or rocks in my paintings but a comparable process of dynamic versus static elements has attended their development and brought about their final form.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986