A. Vasudevan
The Literary Shed

Early summer at the Jerwood Gallery sees it hosting a major retrospective of the work of renowned Anglo–German artist Paul Feiler, the first since his death in 2013. Spanning sixty years of work, the exhibition includes figurative pieces from the 1940s, abstracts from the 1950s and 1960s and Feiler’s more geometric work and Perspex square reliefs from the end of this period. It also features art that has never been exhibited before. A leading figure in the Modern Art movement based in south-west England, Feiler was involved in art education in Bristol for much of his life. His great inspiration came from the light and natural forms of the landscape of Cornwall, which he first visited in the late 1940s. His 1953 exhibition at the Redfern Gallery was a sell-out and enabled him to purchase a disused chapel in Cornwall, where he lived and worked. Feiler’s son, Hugo, says that it was an inspiration to grow up with someone who loved what he did so much, but that his father treated painting very much as a job – going down the road to work, returning for lunch and then going back to work again until 6, after which he would come home. 

Paul Feiler’s studio in the Chapel, Kerris, 1974

Although closely associated with the group of artists working out of St Ives, Feiler very much played to his own tune. A man of few words, Feiler said he preferred his art to speak for him: ‘I’ve spent my life being anonymous,’ he commented, ‘and I’d like my painting to be important because of the anonymity’. 

His paintings seem to be constantly searching for something, his work giving the viewer a way of seeing and a way of looking, rather than a distinctive object to view.  

‘I’m trying to make complex problems very simple,’ Feiler said, ‘both in my way of thinking and in my painting. I’m trying to avoid profundities and I’m avoiding attributing importance to something that to me seems to be the essence of human existence.’

Chrome and Lemon, 1956

Mountains, cliffs, the sea and the horizon were big inspirations, according to Hugo, as were the colours of dramatic mountainous scenes and seascapes and this is reflected in the works in the current exhibition, Feiler’s vision of the world, written down in paint. Chrome and Lemon (1956), a personal favourite, often on show at the Jerwood, for example, originated from drawings made on a visit to Gandria in Lago Maggiore in the mid-1950s, and shows a series of coloured vertical slabs suspended in white space. 

‘Feiler took inspiration from landscape and coast, which was so evocative of his time and
place,’ says Liz Gilmore, Director of the Jerwood. And this means that Feiler’s work perfectly complements this beautifully situated coastal gallery.

Paul Feiler: One Hundred Years, 21 April–8 July 2018, Jerwood Gallery, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings www.jerwoodgallery.org

PICTURES: Courtesy of the Paul Feiler estate

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