Arranged by John Hoyland, this gallery is dominated by a mighty metal sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro. Although static and immensely heavy, it gives the illusion of being on the march. And its dark, rusted forms contrast well with a lyrical, luminous painting by Caro’s wife Sheila Girling, displayed on the wall behind. But nothing can prepare us for the surprise of finding John Dean’s head of Van Gogh, based on the latter’s famous self-portrait.
Dazzlingly executed in jesmonite and acrylic paint, it seems to be gazing quizzically across at Caro’s sculpture. Hoyland relishes this juxtaposition. ‘I thought itwas a nice counterpoint,’ he says. ‘I love Van Gogh’s work and letters. In fact, I’ve done a few paintings recently called Letter to Vincent.’
The spectacular work that Hoyland himself shows in this room may seem abstract - and he admits that ‘my paintings are more formless than they were a few years ago’ - but Mind Horizon is influenced by the time he has recently spent in the tropics. ‘The intensity of nature is exhilarating and spectacularly beautiful. My technique has also become more ethereal since having a heart operation. I do lots of pouring and mixing colours. I’m not as visceral as I once was.’
Thinking about the gallery as a whole, Hoyland says, ‘I don’t think anything is what I’d call abstract.’ And looking at Janet Nathan’s driftwood wall-relief, or George Rowlett’s thickly handled painting of the Thames estuary, we can see what he means.