Sarah Butler reviews The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery's new exhibition 'Martin Froy and the figurative tradition'
I have a confession to make. Prior to this year, I had never even heard of Martin Froy, let alone seen any of his paintings. However, thanks to the new exhibition in the Gallery, gloriously curated by our phenomenal Gallery Intern, Rebecca Starr (who is indeed a star), I am now much better acquainted with, and appreciative of, the work of the First Gregory Fellow in Painting.
Each time I wander round the display, I am astonished anew by Froy's experimentation within the figurative tradition. The difference between the analytical cubist style of Seated Girl (1952) and the detailed, almost realistic portrait of the Head of Frank Lisle (1954) with its muddy hues makes it hard to believe they were produced by the same artist.
In a similar vein, the earthy angularity of Landscape Figure (1961) is a world away from the broad brushstrokes and cloudlike, chocolatey swirls of the buxom Composition Oval Nude (1957).
Martin Froy, Landscape Figure, 1961, Resin Oil on Canvas. On loan from Steven Rich. © Martin Froy
Martin Froy, Composition Oval Nude, 1957, Oil on Canvas. On loan from Steven Rich. © Martin Froy
Froy did not only experiment with abstraction; he also worked in other mediums and his palette became much bolder and brighter in the 1970s and 80s. Café (1953) is dominated by black and so dark, you almost need to strain your eyes to distinguish the figures yet Kitchen Interior (1977/8) zings with warm, sunshine tones. The selection of small watercolours and chalk drawings is another delightful reminder of Froy's skill and willingness to embrace new techniques.
Without meaning to detract from the main man, there are also works by other masters of the figurative tradition on display. Pieces by Freud, George, Auerbach and Bacon line the walls on the 'runway' into Froy's exhibition space, providing both a fitting introduction and contrast to his work.
Be prepared to open your eyes and your mind. Catch the exhibition before it ends on 2 August 2014.