"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, British Artist.
Following a BA in Fine Art at Portsmouth, Brian 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.
Post war 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 response within the viewer.
I make no secret of the fact that I love Abstract art. Balance, rhythm, colour, shape and how all these elements harmonise and work together to create a complete piece which sings or zings in front of your eyes – it is so pleasurable to look at.
It was in my first job as Exhibitions & Publicity Officer at York Art Gallery that I discovered one of my favourite paintings, H.19(Canticle) by John Golding.
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 and 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.
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, however, is false. It takes a real skill to be able to create a successful abstract painting which sings and dances in front of your eyes. In order to do this you must have a strong grasp of the formal elements of which a painting is composed, and to be able to juggle these, master them and apply them to produce a harmonious painting. An artist also has to have a confidence, bravery in to produce such bold work on a large scale.
Brian Bartlett talks about a work ‘finding itself’ or emerging. To have the ability to trust that in the process of your work this will happen 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’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 isn’t 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.