Reginald Sylvester II

Sam Gilliam, Frank Bowling, Reginald Sylvester II, John Hoyland & John Golding

Modal Painting

12 April – 2 May 2021

Art has its own conception of beauty … all great artists can only do what they esteem to be right. No matter how it appears at first, it will always be beautiful.

– Ed Clark

Maximillian William is proud to present a group exhibition of abstract painting curated by the artist Oscar Wollheim featuring work from Sam Gilliam, Sir Frank Bowling Kt OBE, RA, Reginald Sylvester II, John Hoyland RA and John Golding CBE FBA. Below is a short introduction from the curator, Oscar Wollheim.

Modal Painting offers a loose idea of an approach to painting, with especial emphasis on the root of the work that is the artist’s process. Through five great examples of abstract painting, it considers how artists working abstractly use painterly techniques to express ‘modes’ that are tantamount to their perception and experience of the world. The paintings reflect the breadth of possibility implicit in abstract painting as a form, and the way that these artists engage its potentiality. Internal and external states are refracted through a personal prism and transmuted by abstract image-making and processes into immersive and fluid paintings.

‘Modal painting’ is an open idea, allowing for interpretation, which may offer an insight into the multifarious relation between feeling, colour, emotion, memory and process that is manifest in the distinct character of each abstract canvas. Opting to avoid imposing constraints of uniformity or commonality on these artists and their work, Modal Painting aims instead to embrace the spirit of freedom and dissimilitude inherent not only in these artists’ work together, but within their respective bodies of work, and ceaseless exploratory process.

The accompanying diagram illustrates some of the connections between the artists and what might be considered elements of ‘modal painting’. Its circular format reflects the circular nature of the show itself, which invites viewers to move around it, forming their own aesthetic understanding of the paintings and any connections or relationships that exist between them.

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John Golding Painter:

A Path to the Absolute

A documentary film by Bruno Wollheim 2016 (43’)

John Golding, who died in 2012, was an abstract painter though today he is better known as an eminent art historian, teacher, exhibition curator and critic. This documentary presents a life and art in precarious balance, exploring through his friends, ex-students and colleagues the turbulent evolution of his painting and the creative tensions within a divided life. His pictures move from violent Mexican-influenced figuration to large-scale hard-edge abstraction and then to increasing painterliness, reflecting a cultural moment when the stakes in painting were never higher. They mirror too his search for an artistic form to express, contain and sometimes veil a troubled nature.

This film was supported by The John Golding Artistic Trust

With additional support from The Elephant Trust

© Bruno Wollheim 2016

Reproduction of Studio (VIII) 1954 by Georges Braque courtesy of – © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021



Modal Painting Reviewed by Isabella Hill

May 2021

Modal Painting Reviewed by Veronica Simpson

April 2021
Reginald Sylvester II, Ben Bowling and Oscar Wollheim in conversation
Reginald Sylvester II, Ben Bowling and Oscar Wollheim in conversation

On Thursday 18th March at 7pm (GMT), 3pm (EST), 12pm (PT), Curator Oscar Wollheim, Artist Reginald Sylvester II and Sir…

March 2021