For decades Ivon Hitchens produced painting after painting of the same six acres of woodland that surrounded his own personal Provence
Ivon Hitchens: Space Through Colour
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester Until October 13
There are many famous examples of artists taking off to exotic climes in search of inspiration. The English painter Ivon Hitchens had the opposite approach. For decades he produced painting after painting of the same six acres of woodland that surrounded Greenleaves, his Sussex home.
His early works show a fondness for Cézanne and Matisse. Most obviously, 1925’s Spring In Eden, a still life in which – following the Frenchmen’s example – he included a plaster-cast sculpture alongside a vase and fruit bowl.
By the Thirties, his main influence seems to have been the Russian Kandinsky. But it was with World War II that Hitchens’s career came into its own. His studio in Hampstead was damaged by German bombing, so he relocated with his family to a woody spot near Petworth, West Sussex.
It was with World War II that Ivon Hitchens’s career came into its own. His studio was damaged by German bombing, so he relocated to a woody spot near Petworth (Flower Piece, 1943)
There he began to use long, horizontal canvases, which well suited the broad landscape paintings he began to do of his new surroundings. These became increasingly exuberant over the years, in terms of both colour and brushwork.
Hitchens stressed that they were responses not to what he saw but what he sensed.
By the mid-Sixties his landscapes had become almost completely abstract. Line, colour, form and shade ceased to do any of the things we expect of them.
With works such as September Water (1961, above) and Sussex River Near Midhurst, he was producing not so much images of landscapes as immersions in them
With works such as September Water and Sussex River Near Midhurst, he was producing not so much images of landscapes as immersions in them.
In and around Greenleaves, Hitchens found his own, very personal Provence.
ALSO WORTH SEEING
Art At The Eden Project, Cornwall
The Eden Project in Cornwall has become one of this country’s great tourist attractions. It contains 150,000 plants, yet is more than a botanical garden. It’s a spectacular theatre in which the story of the long relationship between humans and plants is told.
This year the Eden has branched out (as it were) into the visual arts, dotting a handful of sculptures around the site. These have all been made by artists in some way inspired by the Eden or the subjects it deems important.
Jenny Kendler has created an installation depicting the eyes of 100 birds at risk of extinction because of climate change. Ryan Gander’s marble drinking fountain – taking the form of his open-mouthed wife – is meant to remind us of the value of clean water.
There’s also a small exhibition (until September 29) of works partially produced by artificial intelligence.
There are plans to expand the art, but in an awesome setting of orchids, mangroves, palm trees, cocoa plants and plunging waterfalls, which artist can ever compete with nature itself?