1981 King Street Gallery, Bristol.

'Reflections on Bristol 1950-81'

Out West No 15

Reflections through an artist's sieve by Neil Harry

Robert Hurdle's new exhibition, 'Reflections on Bristol 1950-1981' opening on 2 June at the King Street Gallery is his first one-man show in Bristol since 1978.

Hurdle is a soft-spoken, thoughtful character in his late fifties, who has been teaching drawing to graphics students at Bower Ashton for over thirty years during that time he has continually painting in Bristol.

The 24 paintings and 14 drawings, which make up his new show are of subjects familiar to all of us, namely the Dock, Avon Gorge and the Severn Estuary.

The Dock is the most recurring theme. It is the subject of his early representational studies and also of the final series of works, completed over the last few months, entitled 'Reflections'.

The 'Reflections' series, as its name suggests, is primarily concerned with the images reflected in the waterway and windows of adjacent buildings. Hurdle skilfully uses shape and layers of colour to illustrate his theme and also to give his paintings an almost tangible feeling of depth.

To achieve this he has evolved a very personal style. He always works with the canvas flat and flicks or drops his paint through a series of sieves. This produces an effect similar to a spray gun. But allows his more control over the consistency of his paint. He rarely finds it necessary to use a brush and refers to this technique as 'My instant pointillist method'.

Hurdle admits to being influenced by Seurat, the originator of pointillism, and besides the related technique, his paintings have the same dreamy, serene feel as the French master's works.

The views of the Gorge and Severn Estuary are more formalised than the Dock paintings. This, he explained. Is due to the influence of Chinese painters. The Gorge is reduced to a collection of horizontal lines and the Estuary to a series of very stylised shapes. Both sets of paintings are produced by applying hundreds of separate layers of paint and this is the secret behind Hurdle's very calm and stable images.

Whilst Hurdle's paintings are complex in their methods of conception and execution the end results are immediately pleasing to the eye and an afternoon in the King Street Gallery can only prove to be a pleasant experience.


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