Leon Kossoff has long been associated with the School of London, and looking at Red Brick School Building, Willesden, Spring, it is easy to see why. One of the few members of that loosely-defined movement to have been born in the British capital, Kossoff has come to know it intimately. Over the decades, he has painted the buildings that make up his own personal built environment, often revisiting the landmarks of his life in order to capture them on a different day, with different light, from a different perspective-- this last in terms not only of angle, but also of emotional vantage-point. For Kossoff, the fact that every thing and everyone is different every day results in a fascinating state of flux that he seeks to capture in his paintings. This is made palpable in the sheer materiality of Red Brick School Building, Willesden, Spring, which was painted in 1981; the accreted oils have an almost organic weight of texture to them and, in the clear traces of the brushwork across the large paint surface, of the artist's own exertions, reveal another facet to this process of change, of flux. There is, then, a sense of matter and of process evident in Red Brick School Building, Willesden, Spring that adds an existential dimension to its existence. At the same time, the incredible variegation of the paint surface adds a tactile, sensual quality to the work that makes it appear all the more intimate and direct a reaction to the artist's surroundings, to his universe.
In Red Brick School Building, Willesden, Spring, the building, in an area which the artist knows well having had a studio there for years, has been given a springing energy. It appears to be soaring, crystal-like, from the ground in its vivid reds, an effect that is accentuated by the brushstrokes in the sky which seem to almost emanate from it, lending it an aura. Kossoff has managed to introduce an intensely personal and idiosyncratic expressionism into this depiction of a local landmark, imbuing it with character and emotion in a way that surpasses, say, Sickert and even Kossoff's own teacher, David Bomberg. The personal involvement in the painting is increased by the human presence, in the form of cars and pedestrians. For Kossoff makes a habit of including the people from his own life in his landscapes often their features can be recognised from his studio portraits. The interaction of town and person is vital to him, as is the sheer dramatic effect of the buildings around him. "That's what all painting is about," he has explained. "Space and light occupied by human presences" (Kossoff, quoted in Leon Kossoff speaks to Channel 4 News, 19 March 2007).