Great Britain born 1930 – France 2014
S14 [Untitled] 1960 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
Robyn Denny, Richard Smith and Ralph Rumney were involved in the collaborative installation of large free-standing paintings, entitled Place, held at the ICA in London in September 1959. Their aim was to create an 'environment' that addressed the role of the spectator as an active participant within the space. The following year Denny was included in the Situation exhibition at the RBA Galleries, London, in September 1960, where he exhibited the triptych Baby is three 1960 and 7/1960 1960. These two paintings are often considered as heralding the artist's major preoccupations of the next decade.
In the year separating the Place and Situation exhibitions, Denny undertook an exploratory series of domestic-scale paintings that at first glance appear to deny or rebuff the concepts underlying Place. However these small square-format and numerically designated paintings are best approached not in isolation, but as a series of investigations within a set of parameters. Six paintings from this body of work were included in Denny's mid-career retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London in 1973, with S12 1960 identified as 'the most interesting' as it 'anticipates Denny's classic dismissal of the claims of the image. The grid image … [is] simply swamped by the tonal intensity of the colours green, grey and blue.'
A process of experimentation, evaluation, rejection and evolution in the artist's work is particularly evident in this series of paintings. S14 1960 addresses similar concerns to S12 yet appears a more resolved painting, particularly as it anticipates the distinctive circuit-like geometry and symmetry that are often cited as hallmarks of Denny's subsequent work in the 1960s.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra