William Turnbull. Heads and Figures. 1953-56

23 September - 12 November 2004


William Turnbull. Heads and Figures. 1953-56

23 September – 12 November 2004


"To develop one's own language you have to go back to the essentials, start with something elementary such as line, then look at space, then at volume. Start from the material, then go to the image, that's the way to go against naturalism… The problem was to avoid existing vocabularies, to find a new vocabulary. The early heads came from this idea: starting from the language rather than from representation".    William Turnbull


James Hyman Fine Art is proud to present the first exhibition of William Turnbull’s works on paper in 25 years. The exhibition includes works from a private collection that have never before been exhibited or published.


Created in oil paint, watercolour and crayon these pictures provide a striking insight into the concerns of one of Britain’s most distinguished artists and date from one of the most important periods of his career. Showing a striking freedom in their exploration of various visual languages, these works reveal both an uninhibited response to the visual world and great technical experimentation.


In common with his fellow Scots, Alan Davie and Eduardo Paolozzi, whose reputations were also secured in the decade after the Second World War, William Turnbull has always shown an extraordinary openness to other world cultures, an experimental approach to his chosen medium and a disregard for categories of high and low art. The resulting works span a range of media and for all their economy are technically innovative, formally rich and iconographically complex.


The exhibition suggests the range of Turnbull’s early concerns and focuses on two important bodies of work: heads and figures in action.


As this remarkable body of work illustrates, William Turnbull may have gained much from his time in Paris, where he became friendly with Giacometti, knew Dubuffet and even visited Brancusi at his studio. But above all, what these powerful works emphasise is Turnbull's place at the forefront of avant-garde developments in London, not least through his involvement in the activities of the Independent Group at the ICA and his friendship with leading figures such as Lawrence Alloway and Reyner Banham. What Turnbull created was a challenging new aesthetic that broke down the barriers between abstract and figurative art and between high and low culture, a powerful new language that well suited a post-war vision of humanity.


William Turnbull is one of the most important British Sculptors of the Twentieth Century and has also worked extensively on paper and canvas.


The exhibition is accompanied by an extensively illustrated new catalogue.


For further information please contact the gallery on 020 7839 3906.