Late Flowering

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We were out and about again earlier this week on the ‘Playground of the Midlands’ project – I’m just ordering the canvases to get the paintings underway soon.  But looking at the landscape as the first buds of spring got me thinking about the way in which creative activity is beginning to turn as more and more of us are, thankfully, living a good deal longer and the opportunity has been given to those of us of the post war generation through good pension provisions at a younger age to carry on making work into old age.   It has come to the fore with the news that Phyllida Barlow will represent the UK at the Venice Biennale next summer – and how good it is to have the pavilion given over to an artist over 70 who is enjoying a substantial ‘late flowering’ in reputation.

Phyllida Barlow dock 2014 Tate Britain
Phyllida Barlow, ‘Dock’ at Tate Britain 2014

She’s not the only one who, having had some initial success as a youngster, rather faded from view over the years when earning a living through other work, but has come storming back of late.  I’m a great admirer of Sam Gilliam, who I knew from magazine illustrations as a student but who then seemed to disappear (at least here in the UK) until I was surprised a couple years back at Tate Liverpool to see an early work of his in the flesh for the first time.  This was followed shortly after when he featured in a room of colourfield painters at the Met in NYC on a visit there.  And just now here’s a feature in Hyperallergic…good to see Sam looking very sprightly in his ninth decade!

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Sam Gilliam, ‘Simmering’, 1970

Of course there are many others…Carmen Herrera immediately comes to mind…so as I approach my ‘old age’ – I’m a pensioner in a few months – there’s plenty of good reason to be cheerful and to get in the studio as often as possible!

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