Remembering the Past, With an Eye to the Future

An exhibition of colourful and vibrant abstract paintings by Brian Bartlett

 "The abstract painter submits himself entirely to the unknown ........ he is like a man swinging into the void; his only props his colours, his shapes and their space-creating powers." Roger Hilton, 1911 -1975


Following a BA in Fine Art at Portsmouth, Brian Bartlett was awarded a travel scholarship to the USA, where he gained his Masters Degree at the University of Eastern Illinois.

On his return, he lived in London where he painted and exhibited.  He has had many exhibitions and his paintings are in collections as far afield as New Zealand and the U.S.A.  He now lives and works by the sea in Kent.

Brian’s work is influenced by his love of painting, in particular Post War British and American Abstraction.

‘White, Black and Yellow(Composition February)’, 1957, Wilhelmina Barnes Graham (1912 - 2004),oil on canvas, Tate St. Ives

Postwar British Abstraction was essentially a break away from realism driven by the need to move on, or away from, the grim reality of World War Two. It developed in the United States before spreading

through Europe.  It was  a concentration on the formal elements of which any painting is made up of, namely shape, colour, pattern, texture and composition.  Artists wished to encourage the viewer to engage with the physicality of the work itself - the reality of actual paint on a canvas as opposed to the illusion of reality of the subject matter. It was about creating an experience and  an almost physical, visceral response within the viewer. 

 I make no secret of the fact that I love Abstract art.  Balance, rhythm, colour, shape, line and how all these elements harmonise and work together to create a complete piece which sings and zings in front of your eyes – it is incredibly pleasurable to view.

It was in my first job at York Art Gallery that I discovered one of  my favourite paintings,H.19(Canticle) by John Golding.

‘H. 19 (Canticle)’, 1983 – 84, William Golding (1929 – 2012), acrylic on canvas, York Museums Trust

It was part of the gallery’s permanent collection and was displayed in their Burton Gallery. It is a huge canvas positively buzzing with colour, shimmering off the surface, dancing in front of your eyes.  I was fascinated by the painting and could easily spend hours just sitting at peace, watching it. I was equally fascinated by the title and it’s connection with music as it reminded me of the atmospheric Nocturnes, Harmonies and Symphonies of James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

‘Nocturne: Blue &Silver – Chelsea’, 1871, James Abbott McNeil Whistler (1834–1903), oil paint on wood, Tate Britain

Abstract art can be much derided perhaps due to a common misconception that there is little skill involved with creating it in comparison to a highly polished ‘realistic’ representation of a landscape, still-life or person.  This belief, however, is misguided.  It takes a real skill to create a successful abstract painting which sings.  In order to do this you must have a strong grasp of the formal elements of which a painting is  composed, namely, line, shape, form, space, colour, texture and value.  An artist must learn to juggle these, master them and apply them to produce a harmonious painting.  

An artist also has to have a confidence, a bravery in order to produce such bold work on a large scale.

‘Caledonia’, Brian Bartlett, acrylic on canvas


Brian Bartlett talks about a work ‘finding itself’ or emerging.  To have the ability to trust that this will happen in the process of your work is astounding.

“Initially a piece dictates its own direction, until form is found and a painting is ‘born’, often, but not always, of an image remembered, whether it be a landscape, interior or a still-life.  

Years ago I was a figurative painter but over the past few years my work has been moving more and more toward landscape.   A friend said of my painting ‘Caledonia’ that he could sense something intangible and moving in the piece, hints of ghost and people floating around.  In essence that is how I feel and how I would like my work to be seen.” Brian Bartlett

Brian’s work encapsulates all that is magical about abstract art.  For me there is pure joy in his paintings.  His use of colour, the balance within his compositions , the way in which your eye is invited in, travelling around the canvas at leisure, pausing on a rough brushstroke of deep-sea blue, sliding over a smooth swoosh of vibrant green, pausing on a perfect circle of sunshine yellow. Brian’s suggestions of titles lead your mind to your own distant memory or thoughts.  Allow yourself time to look and enjoy these pieces.  It is not frivolous or wrong, rather it is essential.  In our current climate of anxiety, fear and social isolation Brian’s paintings allow a moment  for self-care and mindfulness.  

Click on this Link to view or purchase any of Brian's work in the exhibition


Ruth Slater


Mark Wood

Canvas Painting

Video from the artists Studio

Invitation to the opening night

Mark Ward’s paintings all relate to the natural world. Most are developed from experiences of landscapes and creatures locally or in more exotic climes.

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