Kenneth Rowntree at the Redfern Gallery

I love the work of Kenneth Rowntree. After I had been to this show, I  counted how many works I own by him and it is 5 quite large oils. So it is a great treat to see a reasonable selection of his work on display, especially as I missed him at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden. I did catch the little show at Pallant House, which has just closed, but the Redfern has a much larger selection.

He was a fine colourist and he became highly inventive in his approach to form. He tried all sorts of things to achieve the effect he was seeking. For example, a number of works have pieces of wood attached to represent in 3D the thing being depicted (eg a table). The surface texture of a lot of his work shows evidence of multiple finishes. Sometimes he amused himself too much as he took ideas to extremes. He went down a path of reduction at one stage, turning images into symbols (for example in his pictures of Venice). Then the symbols escaped too far from their origins and only the titles indicated what he was doing. There are a couple of these abstracted works at the Redfern and they are the only weaknesses. Far more successful was where he got the balance between abstraction and representation right; the image caught beautifully between something recognisable and something signalling something recognisable.

I strongly recommend a visit. It is a great example of an artist who wasn’t afraid to use representation and abstraction in whatever blend he chose. He clearly felt no awkwardness about either form or about something halfway inbetween.