Jesse Bruton is one of the founding artists of Ikon. This exhibition tells the fascinating story of his artistic development, starting in the 1950s and ending in 1972 when Bruton stopped painting to embark on a career in picture conservation.
Having studied at the College of Art in Birmingham, Bruton was a lecturer there during the early 1960s, following a scholarship year in Spain and a period of National Service. He exhibited in a number of group shows in Birmingham, especially at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, and had a solo exhibition at Ikon shortly after the gallery opened to the public in 1965, and again in 1967.
Like a number of his contemporaries, Bruton developed an artistic practice inspired by landscape and many of his early paintings were of the Welsh mountains and the Pembrokeshire coast. Alive to the aesthetic possibilities of places he visited, he made vivid painterly translations based on a stringent palette of black and white. They re ected his particular interest “in the way things worked, things like valleys, rock formations and rivers.”
Bruton’s painting Rising Locks (c.1965) epitomises this reductive tendency. Depicting a run of canal locks, it is reminiscent of early works by Piet Mondrian, through repetitive, almost cubist, gestures inside an oval shape. Bruton’s later paintings appear calligraphic, involving white bands meandering across black surfaces, modulated by texture through brushstrokes and the use of a palette knife with different mixtures of medium and pigment. Their titles, such as Winding, Turnabout and Back-up, refer to long-distance driving, the concentration on the road and the peripheral awareness of other things around. Rather than depicting the landscape destinations of a car journey, these works constitute Bruton’s strong desire to embody the experience of the journey itself, their aesthetic restraint more appropriate for the artist’s attempt to convey something essential derived from personal experience.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, including text by Jonathan Watkins, Ikon Director. Visit Ikon’s online shop for the full range of Ikon’s catalogues and limited editions.
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Ikon is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and Birmingham City Council.
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