Anthony Whishaw

Drawing (Landscape)


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Not on display

Anthony Whishaw born 1930
Acrylic paint, oil paint, polyfiller, chalk and charcoal on paper
Support: 810 × 1930 mm
Purchased 1984

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Whishaw's career has been influenced by two strands of art. American Abstract Expressionism was the predominant influence in Britain during the late 1950s and early 1960s and stimulated Whishaw to produce large and powerful works. He is also influenced by the Romantic landscape tradition, combining a precise compositional layout with the drama associated with the Sublime. He has described his work as poised on 'a knife-edge between abstract and figurative ideas'. In this work there is a suggestion of an aerial view combined with scratchy lines which resemble twigs. The place however, is not defined. He states that his approach presents 'a parallel experience to reality rather than a description of it.'

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Anthony Whishaw born 1930

T03926 Drawing (Landscape) 1982-83

Acrylic, oil, polyfiller, white chalk and charcoal on paper 810 x 1930 (31 7/8 x 75 3/8)
Inscribed ‘A Whishaw 83' b.r.
Purchased from Nicola Jacobs Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: Simon Vaughan Winter, ‘Anthony Whishaw' in Anthony Whishaw, from Landscape, Large Paintings Since 1980, exh. cat. Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge 1982

This entry is based on an interview with the artist held on 14 January 1988 and has been approved by him.

As far as Whishaw is aware, this work was not exhibited prior to its being acquired by the Tate and has not been reproduced until now. It was started in 1982 in the studio he then used in Wapping, and completed in his current studio, in Bethnal Green.

Whishaw has made a number of large mixed-media works on paper, devoting as much energy and time to each as to his large works on canvas. In relation to his use of materials, he notes that the acrylic co-polymer emulsion he uses acts as an efficient binding or suspending medium for mixed-media works. In general, he tends to return to his subjects over a long period of time and may take several years to complete a work. He also makes numerous small drawings, collages and paintings but it is not his practice to make preliminary sketches for large works and he does not remember any studies that relate specifically to T03926. However, Whishaw has confirmed that it is related to a series of equally large monochrome horizontal or landscape format works on paper that were exhibited at the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield (Anthony Whishaw, Large Works Since 1982, 1985, no cat.), for example ‘Towards Stouting' 1270 x 3657 (50 x 144), ‘Landscape Drawing' 762 x 1702 (30 x 67) and ‘From Lyminge' 1270 x 3657 (50 x 144). (‘From Lyminge' repr. Drawings, exh. cat., Rochdale Art Gallery, 1983 [p.27]).

The artist has confirmed that T03926 is a landscape subject, in that it relates to his experience or memory of the landscape but points out that it is not a record of one particular place. Whishaw has frequently drawn on his experience of various landscapes, in Britain and in Spain, a country he has often visited and which has inspired numerous paintings. He has written of his approach:

Each work attempts to give a unique and different visual experience, so requiring changes of landscape to accommodate the varying type of space, mood etc ... each painting I consider to be a parallel experience to reality rather than a description of it, resulting in the paradox of the work attempting to be autonomous and yet relating to its specific subject ... Having lived and travelled widely in Spain, much of my work has been influenced both by Spanish painting and the harsh landscape, resulting in the use of texture and near monochrome colour' (unpublished notes towards a catalogue statement 1987-8; an edited version was published in The Romantic Tradition in Contemporary British Painting, exh. cat., Murcia 1988).

Whishaw began to concentrate on landscape based works which bear some schematic similarity to T03926 in the late 1970's and some of the most obvious antecendents are illustrated in the catalogue of his one-man exhibition held at Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge in 1982; see for example, ‘Lyminge Forest' (repr. p.8), ‘Landscape Drawing' (repr. p.11) and particularly ‘Drawing' (repr. p.13). Like ‘Drawing (Landscape)' (T03926) and ‘From Lyminge', these combine drawing and blocked or collaged areas, juxtaposing fragmented references to elements which appear to be drawn from actual landscapes, for example hedged or fenced fields (compare T03926 with ‘Drawing', repr. Cambridge exh. cat. 1982, p.13) with conventional linear perspective. In such works the artist has hoped to provoke a visual response which osscilates between a more conventional reading of spatial recession and an awareness of the painting's surface values, an understanding of painterly illusion. Raised or collaged areas are often worked to suggest recession, shadows are painted rather than cast - see for example the heavy curved element in the right hand section of T03926, which frames the inner part of the painting and appears to arch over the white chalk line running at right angles to it. Whishaw has said that the spiky lines cutting vertically across the surfaces of his landscapes of the late seventies and eighties (compare the near central verticals of T03926 with the more fragmented lines of for example ‘Garden (Winter)' 1977 or ‘Meseta', 1977-8, repr. Anthony Whishaw, Recent Paintings, exh. cat., Acme Gallery, 1978 [p.9, p.13]) refer to vegetation or twigs, cutting across the line of vision. This idea was developed in a more obviously representational way in ‘Lyminge Forest' 1980-2 (repr. Cambridge exh. cat. 1982, p.8). Such organic references are contrasted with the harder, more mechanical black and white perspectival hatching across the surface of T03926 and later related works. This was derived from white Kentish weather boarding which Whishaw has used in many landscapes as ‘a cubist device to angle the space and to try to break the recent orthodoxy of the frontal picture plane'. In a recent series of paintings based on Velazquez, he has used this convention ‘in relation to interior spaces and to serve as a visual invention, attempting to depict an equivalent to light - a sort of optical vibrato' (Anthony Whishaw, ‘A Few Notes on the Series that Derived from "Las Meninas"' in Anthony Whishaw Reflections after ‘Las Meninas', exh. cat., R.A., 1987, p.4).

Whishaw has suggested that the panoramic landscapes he exhibited at the Acme Gallery, Kettle's Yard Gallery and Sheffield and which relate to T03926, derive from his experiments with figure and landscape compositions in the mid 1960's (see for example the bisected planar compositions and fragmented perspectives of the works illustrated in Recent Paintings by Anthony Whishaw, exh. cat., Roland, Browse and Delbanco, 1968). Like many of Whishaw's recent paintings, the composition of T03926 may be divided on the golden section. Within this basic division, he suggests a landscape that is, in part, flattened (as if seen at a distance, from high above or from far below) but also recessive. The left hand part of the composition can be read as shallower, interior space, reinforced by the window-like trapezoid shape - a motif which occurs in a number of more recent works, for example in some of the ‘Las Meninas' paintings and in ‘Matadero, Municipal' 1983/4, one of a series of works based on a Spanish slaughterhouse (see R.A. exhibition catalogue 1987., repr. p.2). Whishaw acknowledges this relationship although he is not conscious of thematic cross referencing. Another frequently used device is the curving inner frame - within a frame which draws the eye in but into a space which is perceptually ambiguous in terms of spatial definition.

Whishaw is particularly interested in the processes whereby a painting or drawing is perceived and registered by the eye. ‘Central to my painterly preoccupations are the micro-seconds before perception - the ordering of visual stimuli' (statement in John Moores Liverpool Exhibition XIII, exh. cat, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1982, p.6)

In the Rochdale catalogue Whishaw wrote of his drawing ‘From Lyminge' - a work which relates to T03926 - ‘It is a drawing of an idea of a painting of Lyminge Forest, and, like most of my work, it is about an experience of landscape forming in the mind's eye, the moment before perception' [p.60].

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.292-4

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