Southampton City Art Gallery present a retrospective by the acclaimed British painter John Hitchens. Entitled Aspects of Landscape, the exhibition features more than 50 works spanning almost six decades and charts the artist’s journey from descriptive to a unique form of abstract painting.
Hitchens first came to public prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, when his work was represented by the London galleries Marjorie Parr and Montpelier Studio. Since this period his work has been acquired by many public institutions and private collections in the UK and overseas.
Then as now, his main subject and source of inspiration is the landscape of the British Isles, its hills and field patterns, woodland, sea, the night sky and forms in nature, and the South Downs and woodlands that surround his studio in particular.
While his early paintings were mostly pictorial descriptions of landscapes with wide, open skies, his later work, from the 1990s onwards, began to lean towards abstraction and became increasingly studio-based. This development was greatly influenced by a period spent photographing landscapes from the air, which enabled him to gain an awareness of the land as a two-dimensional composition.
Through this, Hitchens developed a visual language entirely his own. While it is at first glance conventionally abstract, closer inspection reveals the circles and lines occurring in nature. Other influences come from observing man-made patterns in the landscape and from his wife’s handwoven rugs. His use of strong earth colours has its origin partly in natural dye colours seen in handwoven fabrics.
Aspects of Landscape, which features a new body of work that has never been exhibited and remains little known, also includes a display of three-dimensional works, sketchbooks and photographs of the artist’s studio, offering an insight into the range and diversity of Hitchens’ work.
Aspects of Landscape runs at Southampton City Art Gallery from 13 March – 27 June
Naila Scargill is the publisher and editor of horror journal Exquisite Terror. Holding a broad editorial background, she has worked with an eclectic variety of content, ranging from film and the counterculture, to political news and finance.