Albert Irvin RA


13 May - 3 June 2011

Peppercanister is delighted to present, in association with Gimpel Fils London, an exhibition of new paintings by the incomparable Albert Irvin. These paintings, all created during the past 2 years, are both a continuation and a development of the themes and meditations that have been preoccupying Irvin throughout his lengthy career. Taking its title from Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable”, by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, this new body of work is testament to Irvin’s unwavering belief in art’s centrality to life.

The impact of music on Irvin’s belief system has been previously documented; his admiration of Alfred Brendel and Harrison Birtwhistle is well known, for example. In this exhibition however, he has turned to the sentiments expressed in Nielsen’s “The Inextinguishable”. Inextinguishable, translated from the Danish “uudslukkelige” which can also be interpreted as ‘life-force’, relates to that which is inextinguishable: life; energy; spirit. Written during 1916 in the midst of the First World War, Nielsen wished to express “the elemental will to live”.

A statement by Nielsen has been at the forefront of Irvin’s mind recently:  “The most elementary aspects of music are Light, Life and Motion. … It’s all those things that have Will, and the Craving for Life that cannot be suppressed, that I’ve wanted to depict”.

Irvin suggests that if we replace the word ‘music’ with ‘painting’, we might be closer to understanding what he is trying to convey in these vibrant and energetic works. Life, expressed by colour, whirls, dances, and skips across the surface of the canvases in rhythmic and overlapping forms that are punctuated by bursts of radiating light. Within the continuous motion, grids and multifoils structure the canvases, celebrating life’s miraculous beauty. What these paintings tell us is that whether forcefully or peacefully, art – and hence the artist – must continually strive and embrace life.
Since the 1950s Albert Irvin has been exploring the possibilities of paint, colour and the non-figurative form.  Born in London in 1922, Irvin attended Northampton School of Art from 1940-1941, when he began his service in the Royal Air Force. In 1946 he resumed his studies at Goldsmiths, where he subsequently became a tutor. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1998 and held a major show at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin in 199?. This will be Irvin’s 4th solo show at Peppercanister and at nearly 90 years of age, is still going strong, working daily and exhibiting a number of shows annually. His vibrant paintings are in public and private collections worldwide. He also shows regularly at Gimpel Fils Gallery in London. He has been the subject of numerous films and publications about his life and work, including the volume Albert Irvin: Life to Painting by Paul Moorhouse, published by Lord Humphries in 1998. He is pre-eminent in the group of modern colourists that includes John Hoyland RA, John Bellany RA and Gillian Ayres RA. The exhibition will be formally opened by Rodney Rice.