PATRICK VENTON (1925-87) A Point of Departure

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MODERN BRITISH ARTISTS is proud to present a selective retrospective of work by the late Birmingham-based artist Patrick Venton. This exhibition offers the first opportunity for a contemporary audience to view a remarkable body of largely unknown work by a truly original painter.

Venton was born and educated in Birmingham. He worked as a clerk for a short time before joining the Army (aged 18), but was invalided out after three years with serious clinical depression, for which he received electric shock treatment. His elder brother was killed at Arnhem, an event the family never really recovered from and which contributed to Venton's state of mind. After being demobbed in 1946, he attended the Birmingham College of Art, where he met and married his wife Zena in 1951. In his early years he was interested in Surrealism and for a while had a painting room in the house of Conroy Maddox. Amongst Venton's collection of books was a copy of Salvador Dali's autobiography, which got placed in an old tea-chest during a house move and forgotten, only to be rediscovered many years later having surreally been infested and transformed into a wasps' nest.

Venton lectured at Birmingham College of Art and later in London at Heatherley's College of Art, but despite the appreciation and admiration he received from many leading contemporary artists of the time, Venton remained in the words of a colleague, "a very private person, an observer, diffident about exhibiting". Venton's work was included in the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize in 1957 and 1961 and it was during this period that Birmingham City Art Gallery and Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool) both acquired examples for their public collections. In 1966 he was given a solo show at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. Four paintings were also exhibited in 2004 at the Ikon Gallery retrospective and for many visitors these works proved a revelation, offering a tantalising glimpse of a mature and hitherto largely unknown talent.

'A Point of Departure' (Venton's own phrase) offers the first broad survey of Venton's art in more than forty years. Presented are an ambitious group of paintings created between 1952 and 1964, sensuously executed in heavy impasto, tirelessly applied and reapplied with a palette knife, the paint surface subtly multi-layered so the original subject matter is transfigured (the Point of Departure) into a quite magical new reality - one approaching pure abstraction. Fascinated by the play of light on form, his 'subjects', whether pots, pans and bottles on the studio table or rock formations, would be radically abstracted into vibrant, shimmering compositions of fluctuating light and tone. He would revisit a painting, continuously refining and reworking the surface, and the fertile inventiveness in terms of composition and colour in these works is joyously impressive.

Venton exhibited rarely during his lifetime, preferring instead to develop in the privacy of his studio an exhilaratingly original and exploratory artistic language all his own, which now commands wider critical and public attention.


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