News

New Exhibition. Autumn 2021.

New Exhibition. Autumn 2021.

September to December 2021

Details to follow.

New Exhibition. Blossom

New Exhibition. Blossom

May to July 2020

Although we are unable to invite you to view the Derrick Greaves. Blossom exhibition at Mandell's Gallery in Norwich there is a walkthrough video and a fully illustrated 36-page catalogue with a text by James Hyman, which is available to buy online or to order over the telephone from Mandell's Gallery.

We hope you find this collection as uplifting as we do. 


TEXT EXTRACT

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom" Marcel Proust, XII, "Les Plaisirs et les Jours".

It is April 10th. Early morning. Time for our daily walk. We have been in quarantine after a family member caught the coronavirus and depressed after a young friend died of the virus. But now we are out again. Out in the garden and out on our neighbouring streets. The sun is out, too. The light is bright and clear. The birds sing louder than ever. The rumble of the city has reduced to a murmur. The dirty air is fresher and cleaner than before. The sky is an intense blue, not even broken by the sight or sound of an aeroplane, and everywhere there is blossom. 
This year the blossom has a particular intensity. The pinks are at their most pink. The whites, tinged with yellow, are at their frothiest. Never has blossom seemed so abundant and never have I appreciated it so much. 
Our language is filled with metaphors derived from nature: a blossoming friendship, a budding romance, a late flowering. This is the joyful world inhabited by Derrick Greaves’s latest work. It has a spring in its step. It is abundant, bountiful. Lush vases of flowers and bowls over-flowing with voluptuous fruit fill his work over seven decades. There are roses, sweet pea, irises. But never has the blossom that fills these new works appeared so special.


There is comfort in nature at a time of stress. During the first Gulf War, Derrick painted his great series of Shanghai La - a fantastic, colour-saturated paradise of vegetation - and appropriately he recently turned one of these sunny, radiant images into a beautiful new tapestry. Appropriately, too, over the last year Greaves has returned to nature for solace. This time the spur was national rather than international conflict and in particular the ways in which fighting over Brexit has divided the nation and seems destined to rupture the fabric of our United Kingdom. But the timing of this latest show also gives the work a new resonance.


Great art is rooted in time but also transcends it. But in being of its time it may also accrue meanings that move beyond the intentions of its maker to resonate with the concerns of its audience. Giacometti was already sculpting etiolated figures but this personal quirk became an existential symbol after the horrors of the Second World War. Similarly, Greaves’s latest paintings of blossom now possess a new significance. 


Throughout history spring has been the time to come out of hibernation after the long dark days of window. But this year it has coincided with lock-down, one walk a day, essential trips only. Going for a walk, shopping, talking to friends - never have such banal activities been so treasured and never before has the blossom appeared more beautiful. Greaves’s achievement in these beautiful new paintings is to remind us that with the blossom of spring comes new hope.  

New Exhibition. Irises etc. Recent paintings and watercolours

New Exhibition. Irises etc. Recent paintings and watercolours

December 2018 to March 2019

James Hyman is delighted to present recent painting, watercolours and drawings by Derrick Greaves.

Now 91 and still working in his studio each day, Derrick Greaves is one of the most important British painters of the last seventy years.

Greaves initially gained acclaim in the 1950s, when he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale along with the other 'Kitchen-Sink' painters with whom he was then associated: John Bratby, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith.

Since those early days Greaves's work has developed from the social realism of the 1950s to a more heraldic style that paralleled 1960s Pop Art, from an imagery based on nature and observable fact to more studio-bound imaginative constructs. Characteristically, these paintings use strong lines set against fields of colour to create dazzling paintings that light up these dark times with their life-affirming wit.

Text extract:

I recently visited Derrick Greaves at his Norfolk studio to see his new paintings. As with each visit I have made over the last twenty or so years, I came with the excitement of knowing that I would be seeing new and surprising pictures. But this time I was especially intrigued. For some years Derrick has suggested, only half-jokingly, that once he turned 90 (which he did last year) he would stop making large paintings and instead devote himself to watercolours. But once again he surprised me. Yes, there were new and beautiful watercolours - some fresh subjects, others a reinterpretation of earlier motifs based on the rediscovery of drawings from decades ago- but there were also several big new paintings all made this year. It was truly inspiring. 

Derrick’s youngest son, Daniel, calls him Mr Prolific, and it is certainly astonishing to witness not just the continued invention but also the confidence of the new work. But this is only part of the story for Derrick is a terrific (and terrifying) self-editor. There may be new paintings each time I visit, but he is also a harsh critic of his own pictures. Frequently, he destroys work, paints over it or reworks a picture into something altogether different: it’s a nightmare for cataloguers! I remember remarking that a beautiful new still life on a burgundy ground echoed an earlier painting on a green ground, only to be told, sheepishly, that it was the same painting, entirely reworked. 

It is also wonderful that each exhibition on which we have worked has had a distinct identity. I particularly enjoyed working on our 2013 show, entitled All Blues (after a Miles Davis piece), which explored Derrick’s use of the colour blue. This latest exhibition, Irises, etc., remains true to this thematic impulse, focusing on recent paintings that foreground a central motif, in this case irises.

Still lives and flowers studies - roses, tulips, grasses, irises - are a leitmotif of Greaves’s entire oeuvre but this sustained focus on irises was sparked by a private commission for a property situated between the sea and an iris-filled nature reserve. This engagement led to powerful paintings that appropriately often use a palette of blues and greens to set off the purple and orange of the flowers. It also resulted in powerfully economic black ink drawings and subtly coloured watercolours. 

Greaves’s most characteristic images often have an heraldic quality that is a reminder, also, of the artist’s teenage origins as a sign painter. In a parallel universe you could imagine his emblematic painting of a cafetière or a single iris painting on a hanging as signs outside a coffee shop or florist just as oversized spectacles once hung outside an optician and a striped pole outside a barber. In such works Greaves distils the subject to its essence and it is tempting to suggest that something similar is taking place in these latest Iris pictures. 

The two large paintings at the heart of this exhibition, each show three images of an iris set against a dark ultramarine background that refine the flower to its essentials. But looking more deeply at these two paintings and the related works, especially the beautiful studies on paper, something else suggests itself. The purpose of an emblem is to generalise in order to provide an image that stands for the entire complexity of a subject, yet each of these “iris heads”, as Derrick calls them, is individual and particular. Indeed one might almost describe these paintings not as still-lifes but as portraits. 

To see the works on paper of iris heads hanging in a row on a wall emphasises the distinctiveness of each. Moreover, if one reads the two large paintings as each presenting a single flower - a central front-on view flanked by profiles -  then what Greaves has created is the worlds strangest but most beautiful mugshots: society at its ugliest (think also of Francis Bacon’s triptych head studies) replaced by the beauty of nature.

These, then, are life-affirming pictures and their positivity reminds me of Derrick’s Shangri-La series, made at the time of the first Iraq War, and also of a story that he recently recounted about Henri Matisse. During the First World War, Matisse desperately wanted to contribute. However, because of his age he was unable to fight. He wrote to his friend, Marcel Sembat, a government minister for his advice. Sembat replied that the best thing that Matisse could do was to stay in his studio and ‘continue to paint well.’ A century later, in today’s dark times, what could be more inspiring than for Derrick still to go to his studio, each and every day, to produce uplifting works that add light and colour and beauty to our lives.

James Hyman 

September 2018

New Exhibition. The Psychiatrist's Cat and Other Recent Paintings

New Exhibition. The Psychiatrist's Cat and Other Recent Paintings

November to December 2015

James Hyman is delighted to present an exhibition of recent paintings by the great British painter Derrick Greaves. The exhibition is an opportunity to marvel at Greaves's remarkable new paintings and is a playful and inspiring demonstration of creativity, invention and reinvention. It coincides with the launch of the artist’s website, www.derrickgreaves.com.


James Hyman comments:

“In 2007, Lund Humphries published a major monograph on Derrick Greaves and in honour of this, and the artist's 80th birthday, the gallery staged a three-part chronological survey of his work. At that time, Derrick was keen to emphasise that he was still exploring, still inventing, still as excited as ever by what he discovered in the studio. He was also rightly, concerned that the book and exhibition should not appear too final, that there were more chapters to come. Each exhibition since then has been distinctive and different; an assertion of Derrick's extraordinary energy. I am therefore delighted to be staging this vibrant new exhibition.”


The exhibition takes its title from a characteristically playful new work in which the outline of a cat’s face is juxtaposed with that of a psychiatrist. Other works show the combined interior and exterior views of a house near his own home in rural Norfolk, continue his exploration of still life motifs and demonstrate the ways in which he continues to reinvent form using strategies derived from cubism and modernism, and address classical themes.

New Exhibition. All Blues

New Exhibition. All Blues

June to July 2013

James Hyman is delighted to present an exhibition of recent paintings by Derrick Greaves that celebrates a decade since our first solo exhibition of the artist in 2003.

Last summer we staged an exhibition of recent paintings entitled Derrick Greaves. Milestones that celebrated the artist's 85th birthday and we are delighted once more to be marking Derrick Greaves's birthday in June with a vibrant new exhibition.


In the decade since our first exhibition of Derrick Greaves, he has continued to astonish with his creativity and each show has been distinct and different. The present exhibition is no exception. Having previously presented one exhibition in which pared-down images were set against a white ground and another in which coloured lines were placed against a black background, Derrick Greaves. All Blues presents a remarkable selection of paintings in each of which blue is the keynote.

From faded denim to the deepest indigo, from lush azure to the sharpest turquoise, from marine to baby-blue, a range of blues has been a leitmotif of Derrick Greaves's paintings from his student days until the present. But not for Greaves the maudlin tones and sentimentality of Picasso's blue period, nor the whimsical ethereality of Miro's blue-ground dreamscapes of the 1920s. Instead his blues are clear and precise and delineated. Often un-modulated Greaves's blues have the assertiveness of a Matisse papier collé Odalisque or a minimalist abstraction by Yves Klein or Elsworth Kelly.

Our previous exhibition, Derrick Greaves. Milestones, unconsciously took its title from one of Miles Davis's greatest albums and the present exhibition borrows its title, All Blues, from one of the greatest tracks on Davis's seminal Kind of Blue album. These albums mark seminal moments in Miles Davis's pursuit of new forms of improvisation and in the same way the paintings in the present exhibition possess a certainty and rigor that are the scaffolding for spontaneity and chance.

Derrick Greaves is one of the most important painters in Britain and is extensively represented in museum and public collections. Greaves initially gained acclaim in the 1950s, when he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale along with the other 'Kitchen-Sink' painters with whom he was initially associated: John Bratby, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith. After this short period his work swiftly developed into a more heraldic style that paralleled 1960s Pop Art. Flatness, linear precision and fields of colour have characterised his work of the last half a century as Greaves has shifted from an imagery based on nature and observable fact to more studio-bound imaginative constructs. In 2007 Lund Humphries published a major monograph on the artist, Derrick Greaves. From Kitchen Sink to Shangri La.

Derrick Greaves is represented by James Hyman Fine Art.

New Exhibition. Milestones

New Exhibition. Milestones

May to June 2012

James Hyman Fine Art is delighted to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Derrick Greaves, one of Britain's greatest living painters.

James Hyman writes:

I am honoured to present our seventh solo exhibition of work by Derrick Greaves. The exhibition is a special one for many reasons. Most importantly, it coincides with the artist's 85th Birthday on 5th June and the new paintings on show are an appropriately joyful celebration of on-going inventiveness. But it is also special for personal reasons. This summer we celebrate ten years since I opened my gallery. Derrick was the first artist that I represented and I am excited to be marking this milestone by presenting an exciting new body of paintings by the artist.

In 2007, Lund Humphries published my monograph on Derrick Greaves and in honour of this, and the artist's 80th birthday, the gallery staged a three-part chronological survey of his work. At that time, Derrick was keen to emphasise that he was still exploring, still inventing, still as excited as ever by what he discovered in the studio. He was, rightly, concerned that the book and exhibition should not appear too final, that there were more chapters to come. Each exhibition since then has been inventive, distinctive and different; an assertion of Derrick's extraordinary inventive energy. I am delighted that this continues to hold true and that for this latest exhibition the paintings continue to surprise and delight.

On a recent visit to the artist's studio in Norfolk, Derrick asked me whether the new work was what I expected. The answer was yes and no. I have learnt to expect the unexpected! These latest paintings have an immediacy - they are emphatically contemporary - yet they also look back. They synthesise aspects of Derrick's practice of the last decade - linear drawing, flat often subtly modulated grounds, paint often combined with wetted charcoal - but they also have a different character in the ways in which they playfully respond to earlier paintings, whether the artist's own or those of others.

A particular favourite of mine is Marine in which Derrick reprises an earlier theme of people on a beach, but also wittily deconstructs Picasso's most bombastic work, his massive drop curtain for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The clumsy bulk of Picasso's two figures is transformed into sprightly lines that have the vitality of a vector diagram.

Another favourite, Two Cafetieres, combines cafetieres with abstracted flowers to lucidly synthesise different subjects and languages. I also believe that two versions of a large landscape, entitled Bunker, are as powerful as any that Derrick has painted since he rebuilt his pictorial language half a century ago.

I am grateful to Derrick for agreeing to this exhibition and indebted to him for his friendship, loyalty and support over the last decade. I look forward to continuing our journey together.

Derrick Greaves is one of the most important British painters of the last half century. Greaves initially gained acclaim in the 1950s, when he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale along with the other 'Kitchen-Sink' painters with whom he was associated: John Bratby, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith. His work has developed from the social realism of the 1950s to a more heraldic style that paralleled 1960s Pop Art, from an imagery based on nature and observable fact to more studio-bound imaginative constructs. In 2007 Lund Humphries published a major monograph on the artist, Derrick Greaves. From Kitchen Sink to Shangri La. Derrick Greaves is represented by James Hyman Fine Art.

Enquiries: JAMES HYMAN GALLERY