TateShots: Albert Irvin at Tate Stores.

:: Albert Irvin :: 


Here Albert, now in his late eighties, talked to TateShots about three of his paintings; 'Flodden', 'St Germain' and 'Empress', pieces that he hadn't seen since they were last on show at the Tate. Albert explained to us how and why he made the trio, as well as offering up his thoughts on his career as an artist.


Albert Irvin RA. OBE.

A leading figure in British modern art is to show work at the city college which honoured him. Prolific painter Albert Irvin known for his exuberant, vibrant and colourful paintings and prints, will exhibition at Plymouth College of Art later this month.Albert Irvin will exhibition at Plymouth College of Art later this month. He was awarded an honorary fellowship there in 2012, the same year he turned 90. The queen followed Plymouth's lead by awarding him an OBE in the birthday honours this June. 

Albert Irvin RA.OBE. 2010, Allegro, Acrylic on canvas, 152x152cm

 Irvin was deeply influenced by the exhibition of American painting organised by the Tate, London, in 1956. He describes the experience of seeing the Abstract Expressionist pictures – a genre pioneered by Jackson Pollock's and his drip paintings – as "'like a bomb going off". The same could be said for the look of Irvin's overalls – it's as if he was caught in an explosion in a paint factory. The College of Art show will look at his relationship with and role in the birth of abstraction in Britain from the 1950s. Some of the works on show will include pieces from 1960 (Slow Black Night) to 2012 (Memory II). Although he is known for his bright, dazzling paintings, the colour blue is a common thread in the exhibition. The "blue paintings" have appeared irregularly but repeatedly in his output over the decades. He chose to move into abstraction because, as with music this was something simply to be experienced; there was "no need for interpretation". His Plimsoll exhibition at Plymouth College of Art opens on August 19 and continues until September 14.

Albert Irvin RA. OBE.

Albert Irvin RA. OBE. Rosetta 111, Acrylic on canvas, 61x61cm. 

Tapestries by Grayson Perry and a 3D model of a Fiat 500 from Ron Arad have gone on display alongside hundreds of works by artists we have never heard of and, in some cases regretfully, never will, including a healthy contribution from men and women in their 90s.

The occasion is the Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibition – held every year, without exception, since 1769 and a seasonal institution as ingrained in British culture as Wimbledon, the Proms and disappointing weather.

More than 1,200 works are on display, almost all available to buy to help students in the RA schools. The 245th show, opening to the public next Monday, has been co-ordinated this year by Royal Academicians the architect Eva Jiricna and the printmaker Norman Ackroyd.

Ackroyd said it had been a thrill and a privilege. "You wouldn't want to do it every year because it's all-consuming, not just time but mentally.

"But this is a great tradition, it is an exhibition selected by artists, hung by artists in the artists' own galleries – we just choose the best art and try to make sense of it on the walls. It is a truly democratic exhibition."

Ackroyd admitted the danger of upsetting friends with his choices. "The thing is, if you hang a picture on the line and in a great position, the artist always thinks that that's their due so you don't get compliments for hanging it well. If you hang it high they tend to thump you."

It was particularly pleasing to have work by older artists hanging alongside work by many young and emerging artists.

"There is hope for us all," said Ackroyd in front of a vividly lime, yellow, pink and lilac work by 90-year-old Albert Irvin.

"He is a gloriously joyful character." Other nonagenarians in the show include Diana Armfield, Bernard Dunston and Alan Davie, who taught Ackroyd at Leeds College of Art in 1958. "It is a lovely thing to be able to hang his pictures 60 years later."

The final room of the show is given over to a series of six tapestries by Perry called The Vanity of Small Differences, which represent a Hogarthian look at the British class system.

One room at this year's show is entirely for portraiture, including new work by Frank Auerbach (with a portrait of the critic Bill Feaver), Michael Craig-Martin and the American artist Alex Katz, showing for the first time.

As well as the show, there are the prizes with the Charles Wollaston award for the most distinguished work in the exhibition going to El Anatsui for his work TSIATSIA – searching for connection, a vast wall-hanging installed in the RA's courtyard.

• The RA summer exhibition runs 10 June-18 August.