In revisiting my work from 1970, I am retracing my formative roots as an artist.

Underlying my studio practice over this four year period was an affinity with the ‘Sublime’, a theory of art put forward by Edmund Burke. For me it was a feeling, a state of mind. Of Latin origin, sublime means something that is ‘set or raised aloft, high up’. It’s enduring relevance to me has been its focus on such terms as darkness, obscurity, privation, vastness, magnificence, loudness, suddenness, and a reaction defined by a kind of pleasurable terror that inspires awe and wonder.

A very early painting which exemplified my affinity with the sublime, was my imaginary seascape: ‘Rounding Cape Horn’ 1967. This was inspired by the achievement of Sir Francis Chichester to single handedly circumnavigate the world in a tiny yacht, pitted against seemingly overwhelming elemental forces.

Another sublime theme is ‘Mindscape / Hurricane’ 1970. It is an imaginary landscape, evocative of the immensity and power of the forces of nature. I used my fingers to directly apply coloured wax to the picture surface. The result combines energy of application with suggestiveness of overwhelming power of nature.

In my ‘sublime’ inspired paintings, I was making visible what could not be put into words. That was the point of it. Therefore ‘content’ and ‘meaning’ emerges from the visual language itself, to hopefully be evoked in the mind of the viewer. This and other paintings from that period are what I would call ‘associative’ abstract works.

Early Abstraction

In 1969 I took out a subscription to ‘Studio International Magazine.

The February 1970 article: ‘Barnett Newman and the Sublime’ had an impact on the development of my work at that time. Notions like ‘Terror is what you feel in the face of the sublime. Humans-historically-overcame terror through acts of creation- and this is the value of art’. Sublime: awakening feelings of awe and veneration- set aloft- exalted- lofty or grand in thought- to transmute into something higher.

I would describe my series of paintings from 1969-70 as ‘Landscapes of the Mind’
Like you are in an indefinable space with multi-evocative forms:

Mindscape 2. 1970. Encaustic. 45x65cm.

“David Bartlett offers some stylish essays on watercolours. ‘Crisis Period 1’ includes some elements of geometrical abstractions, but an expanse of blue below a white band evokes the sea. Areas of flat, hard edged colour mingle with soft passages of wash”

Anthony Everett
Birmingham Post Art Critic
Second Spring Exhibition
RSBA Gallery
May 27 1971

Mindscape 1. 1970. Encaustic. 45x65cm.