Hung by Christopher Le Brun and Tony Bevan, this monumental gallery takes a risk. Le Brun explains that ‘there are two ways of showing paintings, and one is the classic orthodox hang with lots of space around every single piece. But here it’s like a battle of the paintings – forty big pictures on one wall alone!’
Installation view of Gallery III, Summer Exhibition 2001. Photo: John Bodkin/DawkinsColour
With great daring, Le Brun also took the decision to paint Gallery III a warm, dark grey. ‘It makes the exhibits sing out at you,’ he declares, pointing to a robust and immense work on the end wall by the eminent Danish painter and poet Per Kirkeby. ‘He was really pleased to be invited,’ says Le Brun, praising Kirkeby’s ‘thoughtful response to painting, with very subtle tones and harmonies.’
At another extreme, the north wall of Gallery III erupts in the centre with Keith Tyson’s highly reflective, apocalyptic painting Deep Impact. Tyson, who won the Turner Prize in 2002, here produces a twenty-first-century vision of a world in flames. Le Brun has noticed that ‘everyone who sees Tyson’s painting says: “John Martin!”’ And Tyson undoubtedly shares Martin’s nineteenth-century obsession with flaring, end-of-the-world explosiveness.
Not everything in Gallery III boasts such enormous dimensions. Ben Levene, who sadly died in September 2010, is represented by a number of delicate still-lifes and landscapes throughout the changing seasons. And Paul Huxley, in a very impressive painting called Proteus X, explores a fascinating dialogue between a curvilinear black-and-white form and rectilinear blocks of colour.
Le Brun’s own painting, simply called Trust, relies for its poignant impact on images of vulnerable, elongated trees. Although this landscape was ‘entirely made up’, he explains that ‘it is reliant on memory and association but without narrative – a modern classicism’.