St Ives abstraction, with which Roger Hilton was allied rather than assimilated, was always said to be about landscape. One of the ways in which Hilton differed from St Ives artists was in the degree to which he espoused the figure in preference to landscape. However, Hilton in his maturity was not a representational painter, and although his imagery is frequently figurative, the references are often allusive or elusive. Here the main form alludes to a protruding female rump, and the star-like groupings of lines to the associated openings and clefts of the human body. (Similarly, Picasso was fond of employing the shorthand of an asterisk.) The image is sexualised rather than actively erotic, but it has a smouldering sensuality to it, witnessed by the flicking touch of the brush and the long tails to some of the brushstrokes, with attendant soft smudges. Hilton was a highly sophisticated painter, but his best work retained a compelling freshness, as here. Norbert Lynton wrote in Studio International in November 1971: ‘He paints as though he alone had use of canvas and pigments and as though he had started yesterday.’ His imagery is enduringly new-minted.
We are very grateful to Andrew Lambirth for preparing this catalogue entry.