A contemporary of Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron has gained a serious reputation in his own right with his rich, abstract paintings.
Occupying new galleries in the fresh extension of the Tate St Ives complex – a £20 million, four-year project that has seen the space for showing art at the gallery double – this is the first major show of British artist Patrick Heron (1920-99) for two decades.
Novelist AS Byatt called Heron’s vibrant, abstract paintings ‘the opposite of stories’, explaining that ‘painting is space, and writing is time.’ Influenced by Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Pierre Bonnard, Heron experimented with composition, scale and particularly colour in ways that saw him recognised as one of the most important painters of the 20th century for his shift away from figuration – his refusal of narrative.
It has been argued that his work, both as a painter and critic, helped to draw public attention at the time to the significance and vigour of modern art.
The exhibition makes the most of Tate St Ives’ expansive new display areas to show a number of Heron’s large-scale paintings, and marks the evolution in his visual language, aesthetic sensibility and practice. More than this, the showcase sets out to reinforce Heron’s standing as a ‘modern master’, giving space for visitors to experience for themselves Byatt’s idea that ‘you can close a book. There is no reason ever to stop looking at a painting'.