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View from the Blue III by Robyn Denny


'Big pictures, man-scaled for comfort, myopic involvement demanding close spectator participation - I like them to be nice to be near.' Denny's early personal note to this effect registers the impact of American colour field painting C12 from the time of his viewing Rothko's painting at the 1958 Venice Biennale. At the same time it registers an involvement with an interaction with the spectator different from American colour field's assertion of presence (Newman) or sense of self-absorption (Rothko) and derived from an interest in theories of communications, mass-media (McLuhan), urban life (Lerner) and games-situations (MacDonald) typical of late 1950's British modernist circles.
Denny's early mature work from c.1962 certainly aimed to create a situation inviting the spectator to confront, enter and move through each painting in time through the unravelling of figure-ground interlacing and layering, engendering a sense of 'place in space' for the spectator. Denny described his art later as 'an animation of space and time for which the paintings are physical pointers.'
In the late 1960's the dusky colours and linear elements preferred by Denny in his earlier paintings gave way to daylight colours and colour-planes. More importantly, the vertical format with central plane inviting the spectator to find reflected a sense of self and to meditate around some knotty puzzles was replaced by a horizontal format (most obviously in the 'Glass' paintings, the View from The Blue works being squarer). The spectator is confronted with a scenic scheme and looks beyond the interlocked planes at the bottom of the canvas, which still however run off the bottom edge to encourage one imaginatively to step inside the canvas. Indeed a central slab is still there to suggest our body-width, now suggesting not so much a door as a step on threshold from which to view a blue yonder and return to contemplate the scale of the pictorial architecture below. In View From the Blue III, the near-square format indicates the importance of both axes. Symmetry encourages us to move vertically, but also to notice the apparent reversals on two axes of the L-shape blocks and small shifts in length, so we travel around that circuit as well as follow the stepped in blocks upwards. The title is precise. This is not landscape, a view of a separate blue yonder, but an interaction between self and a sense of more expansive space, involving not a sense of loss and bewilderment but a return to ourselves with a renewed sense of 'space in place'. [Catalogue entry written by Dr. Adrian Lewis for catalogue to exhibition held in 1992 at John Jones Gallery, London.]
Artist:Robyn Denny
Artwork type:painting
Style/Period:formal abstration
Material:oil on canvas
Measurements:1626 x 1829 mm
Technique:painting
Date:1970
Location:British Academy, Carlton House Terrace, London. View by appointment; please contact Ms. Jo Blore on 020 7969 5225
Culture:English
Rights owner:Robyn Denny
Rights status:UK HE use only
Institution:Council for National Academic Awards

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