Sandra Blow, 'Linear Perspective', 2006. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 250 x 250 cm. Image courtesy of the Sandra Blow Foundation. Although abstract, the pulsating collage-paintings and prints of Sandra Blow (1925–2006) are visual synonyms of the natural world. Rough-and-ready quadrilaterals, circles and sweeps of colour abound and overlap, echoing the dynamic of tide on beach, flowers on branch and sun in sky. ‘I’m often amazed at the juxtapositions of trees, parts of buildings and the sky, and constantly changing, subtle colours,’ the St Ives-based Academician explained. ‘I also love great sweeps of moorlands, where you have wonderful undulating lines.’
A wide-ranging exhibition of paintings and prints at Kings Place Gallery, London, remind us of the exceptional talents of this artist whose works regularly lit up the Royal Academy’s galleries during Summer Exhibitions of old.
One often sees the formative influence on Blow of the Italian master Alberto Burri, who was one of the first Europeans to consistently incorporate of unusual materials in his paintings. Sand is washed over Blow’s Tea and Ash (1966), in which a beach-like beige background enjoys an aperture of white; in a work completed 40 years later, what looks like sack marks out a diagonal gauze on top of the canvas Linear Perspective (2006), helping to frame colourful strips of paint.
Sandra Blow, 'Sea Change', c.1997. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 261 x 365. Image courtesy of the Sandra Blow Foundation.
As well as allowing her works an alluring tactility, this layering of substances – coupled with the application of acrylic in improvised fields of colour – builds up a sense of optical stratification, two dimensions deepening into three as the eye tries to find fixed points on which to pivot. And while never gestural in the way of some of other St Ives stars such as Peter Lanyon, her very much hand-made shapes express her ebullient personality as powerfully as the wonder of looking at the world.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and Editor of RA Magazine