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Object of the month: November 2015

Bill Jacklin RA's 'Ice Rink, 3pm', 1992

Published 1 November 2015

Through his paintings, drawings and engravings, Bill Jacklin RA has obsessively pursued an exploration of light and darkness in all its possible forms.

  • Bill Jacklin RA was raised in London and studied graphics at Walthamstow School of Art from 1960 until 1961, before studying painting at the Royal College of Art in 1964. He worked as a graphic designer at Studio Seven in Holborn. In 1962 he returned to Walthamstow to study painting and subsequently went on to the Royal College of Art from 1964 to 1967. His commissioned paintings include projects from the Bank of England, De Beers and the Ivy Restaurant, London.

    Jacklin began to work in abstraction, but after moving from London to New York in 1985, the sights and scenes of his new environment had a transformative effect on his subject matter. From still-life and interiors, his focus turned on the crowds and the constantly changing spaces of the scenery he observed around him.

    This work, The Ice Rink, 3pm, is typical of his scenes in which he presents a large crowd from a distanced perspective, observed in the midst of movement. The ice skaters are shown as swirls of dark forms against the bright ice and light, giving the impression of a repeating pattern. Yet they retain their identities as human forms through the depiction of clothes and the suggestion of gestures and poses. This depiction of crowds as both identifiable individual figurative forms, and simultaneously as abstract marks of a pattern is a characteristic feature of Jacklin’s aerial scenes.

  • Bill Jacklin RA, Ice Rink, 3pm

    Bill Jacklin RA, Ice Rink, 3pm, 1992.

    Oil on canvas. © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

  • Jacklin has said that in his opinion “any good painting is an abstraction because, in the end, the negative and the positive spaces are all there is. That’s the surface. In my case, it’s the light and the object, and one is interacting against the other.”

    In his scenes of skaters on ice rinks, Jacklin commented, “one of the instigating forces of all that was the flow of the geometry.” Jacklin’s observation of the city is a meditation on its constant movement and activity, and the way in which, by capturing such scenes, our attention is drawn to the sense of time passing.

    In Jacklin’s own words, this is, “the kind of feeling that you have when you look up at the night sky about the fullness of time and life passing. I think in these paintings there’s a certain element of that. Everyone’s racing around, whether its the shadows, the people or the clouds. They are like a frieze of something that I’ve seen in the city.”

    November’s artist of the month is Andrea Appiani (1754 – 1817), Lombardy’s most accomplished and well-known neoclassical painter, distinguished particularly in his production of frescoes. Find out more about the RA Collection.