William Turnbull 1922-2012

William Turnbull was a sculptor, painter and printmaker.

In the early 1950s Turnbull was involved with the Independent group at the ICA, whose lectures on recent scientific, sociological and philosophical ideas were of great interest to the artist. Turnbull's early work used simple linear elements as basic signs, often implying play and movement. These were followed by paintings in which the motion of groups of figures was suggested by gestural line.The motif of the head as an object became predominant in his works during the mid 1950s. From 1955 to 1957 he treated the same motif with a calligraphic handling or heavy use of the palette-knife. Until 1963 his sculpture incorporated several parts in contrasting materials, such as bronze, stone and wood.Later in his career he began to erase vestigial imagery. At first he produced almost monochromatic, heavily worked surfaces, followed by thinly painted colour fields . These were either vertically divided or incorporated cropped discs that implied an extension beyond the canvas. Later his paintings comprised sections of colour accented by occasional diagonals or bands clinging to the edge.Turnbull's painted steel sculptures from 1963 to 1968 often involved irregular wavy forms. Turnbull's three-dimensional work corresponded with the concerns of the American Minimalists in its repetition of ready-made geometric units and concern for different responses to identical forms when set in a new context. Turnbull returned in 1977 to small, modelled sculptures. These later works, while evoking his sculpture of the 1950s, were more intimate and less dauntingly imposing.