Estate of the Artist
Private Collection, UK
Worcester, City Art Gallery, Cornish & Contemporary:A selection by Peter Davies of Recent Painting and Sculpture in Cornwall, 9 November–7 December 1985, cat no.31, illus
In 1945 Bryan Wynter moved to a small cottage, Zennor Carn, on the Penwith Moors near St Ives. His first Cornish paintings were Neo-Romantic in style, but by the early 1950s they had become increasingly abstract. Wynter acknowledged that his paintings were no longer directly representational but maintained
that they were still connected to nature:
‘I used to be a landscape painter. Am I still influenced by landscape? The landscape I live among is bare of houses, trees, people; is dominated by winds, by swift changes of weather, by moods of the sea...These elemental forces enter the painting and lend their qualities without becoming motifs.’ 1
Here, loose, calligraphic marks are overlaid, creating a highly complex surface. The combination of soft and hard-edged brush strokes and the layering of colours produce an image which appears constantly in flux. Wynter’s formal interest in space, structure and movement was shared with his friend Patrick Heron whose Garden Paintings from this period have a similar energy and scale.
Wynter’s abstract technique linked him both to French Tachisme and New York Abstract Expressionism, yet his poetic titles – Forest Frontier, Thicket, Deep Current – continued to reference the Cornish landscape. After 1955, Wynter almost entirely abandoned drawing outdoors and instead took up colour
photography, prolifically recording far-off headland and closeup details of undergrowth, woods and streams. The sensation of running water and tangled undergrowth, if not its explicit depiction, can be felt in many of his paintings. Wynter was a keen canoeist and a diver; in fact, he made his own aqualung
specifically to explore under water. Many of the mid 1950s paintings have a base colour of black with lighter colours laid on top, echoing the effect of light dancing on water or of the sky glimpsed above when viewed from under water.
Wynter’s adoption of photography reflected a desire to see things differently, a desire which led him to experiment with the hallucinogen mescaline. He made some drawings under its influence, but the effect this had on his work was more
of a holistic one. This experimentation reflected Wynter’s unconventional and inquiring mind, and facilitated a marked development, as his work became larger and his artistic vision more fully his own.
1 Tate Gallery, display caption, September 2004