WILLIAM SCOTT RA (1913-1989)
MODERN BRITISH (20th Century )
Red Still Life (Ireland, c.1956)
Oil on canvas
Peter Nahum, Cross-Section, British Art in the Twentieth Century, London, 1988, catalogue 80, page 118, illustrated page 119
London, Hanover Gallery, September-October 1956, G 39/38
Description / Expertise
For some time I felt very strongly the need to break from my too conventional arrangements in still-life painting, a conception of space and form which had its roots in the academy of the nineteenth century.
I longed for a freedom from the object or perhaps it was now a desire to divide the spaces of my canvas as I felt and not merely as I knew- the insistence of the objects and their symbolic meaning, wherever I might place them within the picture plane, interfered with my new interest. My problem was to reduce the immediacy of the individual object and to make a synthesis of `objects and space' so that the new conception would be the expression of one thing and not any longer a collection of loosely related objects. While working towards this end my paintings contain greater or lesser degrees of statement of visual fact. Sometimes the object disappears and takes on a new meaning. It is during this moment of transition when I feel I realize most completely my intentions. Apart from the subject, which I can do nothing about, what interests me in the beginning of a picture is the division of spaces and forms; these must be made to move and animated like living matter. I have a strong preference for primitive and elementary forms and I should like to combine a sensual eroticism with starkness, which will be instinctive and uncontrived.
To have a too clearly conceived idea before beginning a work is for me a constriction; it is in the act of making that the subject takes form, it is in the adding, stretching, taking away and searching for the right and exact statement that a tension is set up. I am horrified at the smart brush or any too easy method of gaining effect. I want to paint what I see but never immediately; there must be a time lapse,`a waiting time' for the visual experience to become involved with all other experience. That is why I paint from memory. I seem to paint the same subject whether it be still life, figure or landscape; there is no escaping, one can develop but never change it. This subject is indefinable, but it is the secret of the picture's success or failure.(1)
1. William Scott, statement in The New Decade, Museum of Modern Art Exhibition catalogue, New York 1955