with Waddington Galleries, London
Private Collection, UK
Edinburgh, Scottish Arts Council Gallery, Roger Hilton, Drawings and Paintings, Scottish Arts Council, 15 June-15 July 1974, cat no.10
London, Hayward Gallery, Roger Hilton, 4 November-6 February 1994, cat no.13, illus colour
DescriptionRoger Hilton was aware of developments in European modern art from early in his career, having studied at the Académie Ranson in Paris during the 1930s. He settled in London in 1945 and was given his first solo exhibition of Tachiste-style paintings at the Gimpel Fils gallery in June 1952. In early 1953, Hilton was introduced to the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys and the pair travelled to Holland in February, viewing paintings by Piet Mondrian at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.
Between 1952 and 1954, Hilton made a considerable number of paintings that share September 1953’s distinctive Mondrianesque palette of blue, red, grey, black and white. He was also highly influenced by Nieuwenhuys’ concepts of space-creating colour in modern architecture. In Lawrence Alloway’s influential book Nine Abstract Artists, published in 1954, Hilton stated, ‘I have moved away from the sort of so-called non-figurative painting where lines and colours are flying about in an illusory space; from pictures which still had space in them; from spatial pictures, in short to space-creating pictures. The effect is to be felt outside, rather than inside the picture; the picture is not to be primarily an image, but a space-creating mechanism.’ 1
Hilton’s motivating principle then is a heightened experience of the painting as object, rather than image. This 'objectness' is foregrounded by Hilton’s acknowledgement of the edges of the canvas within the image – as we see here in the vivid blue that streaks down the left-hand side of the canvas and in the triangle of red that points to the right-hand corner. Hilton’s thick application of paint with a palette knife (comparable to the painters Nicolas de Staël and Serge Poliakoff) provides a sensual quality that tempers the austere abstraction of the forms. In some areas, underlying colour shows through, a flash of blue escaping where the black meets red, for example, suggesting that this painting's origins are more complex than a dry composition of interlocking shapes.
1. Roger Hilton, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1993, cat no.15