Alan Green

Broken Blue Angle


Not on display

Alan Green 1932–2003
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2403 × 2600 mm
Presented by the artist's estate 2011


Broken Blue Angle 1992 is a large abstract painting that depicts a composition of related shapes at progressive intervals, registering shifts in colour and tonal balance. Following the lines of the work’s stretcher, Green created a progressive succession of three rectangles within and overlapping each other, asymmetrically situated in the bottom right quarter of the painting. This composition marks a pragmatic attitude towards geometry, regarded as a building block that can be freely altered by the artist. Each area is painted in a different colour –white for the smallest rectangle, light grey for the middle one and dark blue for the largest one; thus the progression in scale correlates to a progression in the depth of colour. Along the top of the composition the artist has scraped off a thin line of paint, making the raw canvas visible. Elsewhere, the canvas surface has been worked on intensively and methodically, building up several layers of paint, lending the surface a varied and rich texture of underlying tones.

From early on, the main subject of Green’s paintings was the pictorial plane as an area of delimitation: as a factual canvas but also as a grid of small parts, as demonstrated in One to Four 1982 (Tate T03443). The relationship between the overall composition and its individual parts played a decisive role in Green’s earlier work, as well as in works from the 1990s such as Broken Blue Angle and Angled Whites to Blue Grey 1995 (Tate T13577). During the 1990s, however, his work moved towards an investigation of the canvas surface, exploring a more fluid sense of space in which to structure his paintings. To this end, he reduced his use of colour to monotones and increased the scale of his canvases. By using translucent whites with progressive scales towards opacity, he was able to explore varying formal structures. Writing about his work from this period, Green said: ‘The physical nature of paint and canvas as material is central to the activity. The wide ranging choices on offer, from the gentlest sating to the solid mass can invariably clarify intentions, enhancing legibility. Colour is necessary but no longer dominates; it no longer determines form as in earlier works, playing a subversive role in the overall scheme.’ (Quoted in Annely Juda Fine Art 2008, p.7.)

Green always approached his materials with great precision. Thinking of his pigments primarily as substance, and then as a colour, he drew attention to the practice of painting, such as the application and layering of colour and its material composition. Since the 1960s and 1970s, when minimal and abstract geometric painters would favour the use of flat colours as opposed to gradations in tone or texture, Green ground his own pigments and created tools for marking and scraping his painted surfaces. ‘I prefer to use real pigments,’ he said, ‘all the metal oxides, zinc, the cobalts, the cadmiums, lead and titanium, together with the earth colours, encourage a reality far removed from the simpler colour mixes obtained on electronic screens.’ (Quoted in Annely Juda Fine Art 2008, p.7.)

Further reading
Alan Green: Selected Works from 1991 to 2003, exhibition catalogue, Annely Juda Fine Art, London 2008.
Alan Green: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, exhibition catalogue, Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden 2010.

Carmen Juliá
May 2011

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