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John Hitchens: A Collection of Early Paintings at Moncrieff Bray Gallery


John Hitchens: A Collection of Early Paintings

17 - 27 JULY

11.00am - 4.00pm

Together with gallery artists who celebrate the act of painting: Karen Bowers, Anthony Garratt, Mary Liddell, Philip Lyons, Maggie O’Brien, Stephen Palmer, Jemma Powell, Lucy Powell, Catharine Somerville, Paul Treasure, Sarah Warley Cummings, Vivienne Williams.

17 July to 27 July, Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 am – 4 pm

Opening Party,  Wednesday 17 July 1.30 to 6.30 pm

Summer Drinks Party, Saturday 20 July 3.0 pm – 7.0 pm  –  another chance to view the exhibition in the presence of the artists

John Hitchens grew up in Graffham, West Sussex and studied at Bath Academy of Art.  He was surrounded by art from his infancy.  His Grandfather, Alfred, (1861-1942) was a successful academic artist and his father, the modern British artist Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) had his studio in the family home.

This exhibition brings together his work from the  1970s and 80s when he painted directly in the open air often on a large scale.  After painting more conventional compositions with a traditional horizon line he gradually realised that the sky, for so long the starting point for the mood of a painting, had in fact become a limitation.  He was searching for the compositional freedom to express the formation of the land with a vigorous, gestural means of expression.  These paintings saw him flattening the perspective to eliminate the sky and horizon and entering deep into the woodland, analyzing the shapes and patterns of trees, clearings, light and shade.

John painted throughout the seasons reflecting the changing colours of the Sussex countryside.  Continually searching and pushing the boundaries, John’s work has evolved into his current abstract style using a restricted range of earth pigments.

These paintings provide a fascinating relationship to the current exhibition Ivon Hitchens: Space Through Colour at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. Many were painted in the woods around Greenleaves where Ivon had his studio and where John now works.  The Far Wood at Greenleaves, Tegleaze Wood up on the South Downs, the view from Duncton Hill are all places John returned to over and over again.  Often he would start with a detailed painting that he would then refine and simplify in subsequent versions – painting in series.

John painted Ivon’s Studio a year after his father’s death.  Molly, Ivon’s wife had left it exactly as it was with all the props and John decided to record it in paint rather than photographing it.  In keeping with his technique for painting landscapes, he starts with a representative painting, refining the composition in subsequent versions to simplified abstract forms with large areas of unpainted canvas. These paintings show the west wall of Ivon’s studio with a door to the right and the view through to the garden at Greenleaves on the left.  John still owns the easel and the plaster cast, the chaise longue was acquired by one of Ivon’s clients, the Brazilian Ambassador, because he owned a painting in which it was included.  The large mirror frame was destroyed as it was riddled with woodworm.

The series provides a unique insight into John’s working technique and his response to a space he would have been so familiar with. He is able to render the complex spatial relationships with complete mastery, creating a lyrical balanced interior with broad sweeping brushstrokes.

Alongside John’s paintings we are showing works by our gallery artists which celebrate the act of painting.

Exhibition open: Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm