Aspects of Realism, AIA Gallery, 1958 (This exhibition of 16 paintings by 16 artists included Greaves, Bratby, Middleditch, Peter de Francia and Joe Tilson).
Literature: James Hyman, 'Derrick Greaves. From Kitchen-Sink to Shangri-La', Lund Humphries, 2007, (p.77-78, 89, illustrated p.78)
Lovers is one of Derrick Greaves largest and most important paintings of the 1950s, the decade in which he initially established his reputation as one of the "Kitchen-Sink" painters.
John Berger in one of his very first essays on Greaves wrote of the artist's brushstrokes:
"An object is what it is because of the way it has been made. Pieces of leather are sewn together to make a shoe. Wicker is woven to make the seat of a chair. An arm assumes its shape and colour as a result of the sum total of the muscular actions it habitually undertakes and the temperatures it endures Greaves works as an artisan with every brush stroke".
This naturalistic quality was something that Greaves himself recognised: 'Each element was painted in its own way, embodying its unique properties. I was thinking about it all the time. How an apple and a jug each might be painted differently'. What followed were paintings in which Greaves rejected such naturalism.
Indeed by the later 1950s Greaves was moving away from such fidelity to more imaginative or evocative renderings. In this move away from naturalism, a key painting was Lovers (1958), a large work that was exhibited in Greaves's solo exhibition at Zwemmer Gallery in 1958 as well as with the A.I.A. in an exhibition of Aspects of Realism.
In Lovers, two figures melt into each other in an intimate embrace. But this dissolution challenged Berger's promotion of accessible language, objective concerns and typical subjects, leading him to criticise Greaves's work for its lack of explicitness: 'a search for elusive meanings; a kind of dance round their themes, which remain unstated'.
In contrast, another eminent critic, Nevile Wallis wrote a lengthy and ecstatic review of Lovers. For Wallis it was:
"the most ambitious attempt to realise the ecstasy of natural union yet given us by any contemporary The almost swooning mood is heightened by the floating shapes and the deliquescent colour of this image which, in imagination, symbolises the experience that may bring union with the cosmos itself Greaves reconciles a near-tachiste method with his amorphous yet subtle shapes to communicate an emotional experience which could be conveyed in no other way".