Malcolm Hughes

White and Aluminium II


Not on display

Malcolm Hughes 1920–1997
Oil paint and aluminium on plywood
Object: 1829 × 1829 mm
Purchased 1966

Display caption

This is one of a number of works made by Hughes from the mid-1960s that incorporate geometric shapes set against a white ground. A Shared characteristic of these works is their use of aluminium, reflective paint surfaces and relief elements. Describing his use of these materials, in 1966 he commented: 'My work...doesn't easily fall into painting or construction.' For this reason he called works such as 'White and Aluminium II', 'relief paintings'. Though the works are abstract, Hughes's emphasis on a deliberate arrangement of the shapes was a reaction against the expressive, gestural painting that had dominated the previous decade. He commented: 'I thought that was too loose and indulgent.'

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Malcolm Hughes 1920-1997

T00823 White and Aluminium II 1965

Inscr. ‘Top [with arrow] /Malcolm Hughes 1966/Back’ on back.
Plywood, P.V.A. and aluminium on plywood panel, 72 x 72 (183 x 183).
Purchased from the artist through the Axiom Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1966.
Exh: First Exhibition, Axiom Gallery, February–March 1966 (15).

The artist wrote (13 May 1966): ‘… it is one of two paintings that I worked on at the same time and were related to similar thematic material, part of which goes back to an earlier work White and aluminium 1964 ... I suppose the particular common element I am thinking of is the spatial displacement – implied movement possibility that the triangle-chevron area provides.

‘The particular one the Tate has purchased does have two features that make it part of a developing situation. Firstly the use of reflective paint surfaces - the areas painted in white gloss paint – an extension both of the means of defining the space and also of the light reflecting areas and secondly the use of the black area - the elements are all held together in a very negative way and black seemed to expand this feeling into the advancing/receding space idea of the painting. The black also links it with certain chromatic ideas that I intend to work with in the near future …’

‘... My work, at the present anyhow, doesn’t easily fall into “painting” or “construction”. Because I tend to use aluminium and sometimes use physical relief there is a tendency to place me with the Constructionists ... In fact however the reasons for the use of aluminium and relief grew out of my earlier paintings and I tend to think of myself as operating much nearer to painting than construction and always like to use the term “Relief Painting” when defining the type of object under discussion.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1965–1966, London 1967.

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