Friday, 15 January 2010

William Gear

Scottish painter William Gear was something of an unsung original talent in his time; a great shame given how bold, modern and playful his work is. Whilst definitely abstract, the shapes and patterns in his work come from his love of landscape and natural forms.

Born in 1915, Gear studied at the Edinburgh College of Art, and then went on to Paris in the late 1930s where he studied with Fernard Leger, whose complex compositions and bold use of colour had a marked affect on Gear. He was drafted into the military during World War II but managed to continue painting, even exhibiting work in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo and Germany. In 1947 after he was released from service he returned to Paris and worked prolifically, spending time with other emerging abstract artists and become affiliated to the CoBrA art movement, who espoused complete freedom of colour and form in there work (plus a dislike of Surrealism!) Gear’s reputation grew and his work was shown alongside Jackson Pollock’s in New York, but he was never fully appreciated back home. His ‘Autum Landscape’ painting of 1951 was included in the Festival of Britain that year, but the Daily Telegraph described it as “linoleum-design art” and the president of the Royal Academy, Sir Alfred Munnings, described it as a “scheming, self-conscious, anglicised, fifty-year old repetition of the École de Paris”. Not exactly what an artist wants to hear!

The distillation of natural forms, and the complex web-like structures or bold shapes were far more considered and involved than that, and much of his work still looks contemporary today. Gear continued to work well into his 70s – see the fantastic abstracts below from 1988 – and died in 1997.

Autumn Trunks, 1952

Abstract, Red and Green, 1988

October Landscape, 1959

Red Flower, 1951

Winter Hedgerow, 1951

Landscape #2, 1951

Abstract, Yellow & Purple, 1988

Grey Square on Yellow, 1956

White Feature, 1958

Autumn Study, 1953

Pastoral, 1952

Winter Structure, 1956

Black & White Form, 1956

Caged Forms, 1969

All image © Estate of William Gear

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