The Camden Town Group and Bloomsbury Set of the North & Centre; the 90s YBAs of the East; the vibrant sprawling network of young and emerging artists peppering the South of the city... London has a certain geographic sense of the artistic richness, past and present, in each of its quarters. Yet, there is to be found in the West an extraordinary confluence of artistic endeavour, innovation and eminence that is as highly significant as is it is rarely acknowledged.
Perhaps it is the sheer historic & cultural abundance of the areas defined as ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Holland Park’ that subsumes any notion of any particular artistic ‘moment’. However, in the midst of the glorious cacophony of contrasting and competing cultural phenomena manifest in these postcodes, it can be fairly said that, from the mid 1940s to the present day, at the very least seven of the most significant western artists of the 20th Century have been at work in this artistic ‘square mile’ par excellence.
The beginning of the ‘moment’ in question was really the moment of deliverance for the country and western civilisation as a whole – 1945. During that same year, Patrick Heron moved to the bomb-crater strewn capital and made his home in the two upstairs floors of 53 Addison Avenue. From that ‘first footing’ of the artistic ‘moment’ that this exhibition seeks to define, explore and celebrate there has never been a point in the 75 years hence that this small, residential area has not been host to at least one (and more usually several) of the most prominent artists in the world.
The lives and natures of these artists are, in examination, as disparate and distinct as their artistic practices: from the brilliance of David Hockney and the fashionable crowd in his salon and studio in Powis Terrace, to the austere & private garret overlooking Holland Park, a short walk away, where Lucian Freud created many of his most notable masterworks. A short stroll west finds the Royal Crescent, where Bridget Riley still works today in her steep five storey studio and home – continuing to define not just her own style but an entire genre of abstraction. Turning left out of her door and over the avenue reaches Lower Addison Gardens where for a large period of the 60s and 70s one would have found Howard Hodgkin honing his own language of abstraction, or what he would more eloquently proclaim as ‘representational painting of emotional situations’. Upstairs in Hodgkin’s house one would have encountered Patrick Caulfield, sharing studio space - free from the distractions of his young family then living on Clarendon road - whilst pursuing his own radical and new ideas in painting. Ten minutes’ walk back east then arrives one at Notting Hill Gate, where, from the mid-60s until her recent death in January 2019, the American born Susan Hiller was at work collecting, collating and reimagining cultural phenomena, weaving together a conceptual practice of singular brilliance and mystique.
A turn on one’s heel and a brisk walk down Holland Park Avenue and a quick right-turn up St. Ann’s Road will now deliver you to the doors of Frestonian Gallery, where the exhibition ‘Hill & Park’ presents significant works by all the aforementioned. Founded in 2017 to celebrate both established and emerging art – revealing and creating dialogues and narrative threads in the ever-evolving British and international art scenes.
NOTES ON THE ARTISTS AND WORKS IN EXHIBTION:
PATRICK CAULFIELD (Clarendon Road & Cornwall Crescent)
Patrick Caulfield (1935-2005) was renowned for his use of bold colour and his pared-down, hard-edged reimagining of the still-life and interior genre. This can clearly be seen in the included ‘Fig Branch, 1972’, which hangs alongside his ‘Café Sign, 1968’ a classic example of why he has so often been associated, perhaps reluctantly, with the American and British Pop Art movement.
LUCIAN FREUD (Kensington Church Street & Holland Park)
Lucian Freud (1922-2011) one of the most important figurative artists of the last century, and arch-scrutiniser of the human form, produced, during his lifetime, a limited number of bold and sumptuous etchings, taking family, friends and models as his subject. This exhibition includes a handful of highly desirable examples, one of which ‘Bella, 1987’, shows his daughter the fashion designer Bella Freud, herself another ‘Hill & Park’ resident.
PATRICK HERON (Addison Avenue)
Patrick Heron (1920-1999) was a leading figure and pioneer in twentieth century British art. His distinctive language of abstraction, featuring stripes, circles, lozenges and squiggles of bright and contrasting colours, are delightfully represented in the works exhibited, not least in his ‘Untitled, 1972’ screen-print commemorating the death of the great American Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko.
SUSAN HILLER (Notting Hill Gate)
Moving to London in the early 60s from the USA, Hiller (1940-2019), was an expert observer of cultural phenomena and the human condition, and one of the foremost conceptual artists of the late 20th Century. The work exhibited ‘Midnight, Notting Hill Gate, 1986’ is a self-portrait exploring ideas of mechanical versus expressive mark-making, employing an ‘automatic drawing’ style calligraphy over a photomat ground.
DAVID HOCKNEY (Powis Terrace)
David Hockney (b.1936) is one of most globally recognised and celebrated artists working today. This exhibition includes a collection of his iconic prints and works on paper that include some of the characters from ‘Hill & Park’. Amongst these examples is the rarely exhibited ‘Tchaik, 1970’, a beautiful and intimate portrait of Tchaik Chassay, a close friend of ‘DH’ and also the architect of his celebrated home in Powis Terrace; as well as a gorgeous lithograph of Celia Birtwell, fashion designer and muse of Hockney, who perhaps most memorably features in his much adored ‘Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-71’ (Tate collection)
HOWARD HODGKIN (Lower Addison Gardens)
Howard Hodgkin’s (1932-2017) unique take on representational painting and mastery of colour and mood places him at the very top table of twentieth century painting. Hodgkin’s genius is evidenced here, amongst other works, in his elegant early work ‘Girl at Night, 1968’, and in his spectacularly vibrant, (very) large format, ‘Venice, Afternoon, 1995’.
Bridget Riley (b.1932), still living near to the gallery, has for the last six decades blazed a trail in abstraction. The exhibition presents a selection of prints from across her incredible career so far, including ‘Winged Curve, 1966’, a classic example of her early work in black and white, ‘Elapse, 1982’, and ‘And About, 2011’.