Jesse Bruton comes to IKON

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Jesse Bruton is one of the founding artists of Ikon. From 6th July – 11th September 2016 this exhibition comes to IKON to tell the fascinating story of his artistic development, starting in the 1950s and ending in 1972 when Bruton abandoned painting for painting conservation.

Having studied at the College of Art in Birmingham, Bruton was a lecturer there during the early 1960s, following a scholarship year in Spain and a stint of National Service. He exhibited in a number of group shows in Birmingham and later had a solo exhibition at Ikon shortly after the gallery opened to the public in 1965, and again in 1967.

Like many of his contemporaries, Bruton developed an artistic proposition inspired by landscape. Inspired by the places he visited, he made vivid painterly translations based on a palette of black and white, reflecting his particular interest “in the way things worked, things like valleys, rock formations and rivers …”

Jesse Bruton, Study for Backtrack (c. 1967). Pencil watercolour gouache and contre crayon on paper. Image courtesy of the artist
Jesse Bruton, Study for Backtrack (c. 1967). Pencil watercolour gouache and contre crayon on paper. Image courtesy of the artist

“I wasn’t particularly interested in colour. I wanted to limit the formal language I was using – to work tonally gradating from black to white, leaching out the medium from the paint in order to enhance a variety of textures. I also felt that colour got in the way of describing the structure of the landscape …”

Bruton’s later paintings appear calligraphic, involving white bands meandering across black surfaces. Their titles, such as Winding, Turnabout and Back-up, reflect their origin of the long-distance driving he undertook, the concentration on the road and the peripheral awareness of other things around. In a catalogue note Bruton explained they “were about the isolation of that situation. The concentration on the ribbon of the road winding away from you. I am painting about that.”

 Rather than depicting the landscape destinations of a car journey, these works constitute Bruton’s strong desire to embody the experience of the journey itself, their aesthetic restraint more appropriate for the artist’s attempt to convey something essential derived from personal experience.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, including text by Jonathan Watkins, Ikon Director. The exhibition is supported by the Mill Dam Trust and David Owen.

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