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Review of the monograph on John Golding, by Richard Deacon, Art Quarterly, Autumn 2019

'[In Paths to the Absolute] he captured the essence of the dialectic that drove Pollock and certain other Abstract Expressionists. Namely, that Pollock’s art and sensibility pivoted around “the dichotomy between the search for self and the longing to identify with an absolute”. I strongly suspect that the progression of John’s own art followed a similar path. In other words, it evolved from a vision of the human body to an absorption in sheer chroma.'

 

David Anfam, 'John Golding, American Art and a Personal View' in: John Golding (London: Ridinghouse, 2017), p. 171

 

Dawn Ades, 'Making Visible: Abstract Drawing'

Abstract Drawing, curated by Richard Deacon

Drawing Room, 2014

 

'John Golding moved into abstraction from figure painting, and even insisted that the human body was still always there in his work. However, very early on he did leap temporarily into abstraction, in a small group of collages. the flat rectangles in Untitled (1965-66) give the illusion of overlapping layers, with the black pedestal-like shape alone establishing the picture plane. Although without any of the referents (to music, instruments, furniture) of the Cubist collages of Braque, Golding's collages are closer in spirit to these than to the Russian avant-garde, though Cubism ultimately lay behind that too. Collage was instrumental in breaking up the pictorial space that was married to traditional systems of representation. Collage did all kinds of disruptive things: fragmenting objects, juxtaposing the unlike, emphasising the flat surface while not actually being part of it... With Golding, it was a direction he did not pursue, preferring the freer movement of pastel and wax and the subtle coloured surfaces. he was both art historian and artist, and wrote illuminatingly about Cubism as well as Malevich and other abstract artists such as Pollock and Barnett Newman. Familiar with the arguments about abstraction and its histories he described his own work as moving into abstraction from the figurative image - more, in other words, like Mondrian or Kandinsky than Malevich. His comments about his own experience of abstraction underline the discontinuities in these histories, at the same time as the historically determined character of his own formation in the postwar years, with both the New York school and the Mexican mural painter Jose Clemente Orozco as guides. 'Given the fact that abstract art has been with us for some 75 years, it never ceases to amaze me that it was only the generation of painters after my own that accepted abstraction as a language that could be immediately picked up rather than as something that had to be worked into'. Despite the fact that he seems to be regretting that 'abstraction as a language' was not open to him, there is the implication that 'working into abstraction', as he calls it, with the personal struggle it entails, will lead to more satisfying and original results. Golding ascribed the vertical structures - bands and lines - in the pastel and wax drawings to the persistent presence of the body.

Adrian Stokes

Yale Center for British Art exhibition, 1989

(Click below to be directed to the full catalogue)

Marina Vaizey

John Golding: Paintings & Drawings, Kettle's Yard, 1975