International gallery Timothy Taylor has a new home on the other side of Berkeley Square as its old one, and has put on an interesting exhibition to mark the occasion. The show brings together three artists who found fame at a similar time - the years following the last world war - but via quite different methods.
Pierre Soulages applied thick black paint - layers and layers of it - to his large canvases, while Antoni Tàpies went even heavier, with his bulky sculptures in bronze and fired clay. Simon Hantaï’s work, though, is lighter, subtler, and is the standout of this show.
Hantaï, Tàpies, Soulages - from left to right
He uses oil paint rather than the acrylics favoured by Soulages. His blue and red patterns on white backgrounds seem clever, lyrical flicks rather than deep purposeful gouges.
The series is known as Pliages (folds) - where he folded the canvases in different ways before applying the paint. His craft is in making the pattern that emerges, when unfolded, seem unified and coherent.
Though maybe that’s just me trying to form order out of chaos. The show’s (excellent) accompanying essay by Hettie Judah argues that the three artists did the same in their work. They have similar roots, embedded in the Surrealist and, further back, Dada movements. All seem to be responding to the Abstract Expressionists over the ocean, as well as to their homegrown war trauma.
She picks a great adjective to describe the three: “indefatigable”.
Inaugural Exhibition: Simon Hantaï, Pierre Soulages and Antoni Tàpies is at Timothy Taylor (London). September 06 - October 19 2019