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Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour

By Theresa Thompson, Timeless Travels Art Correspondent


Best-known for his vibrant semi-abstract landscapes of the Sussex countryside, Ivon Hitchens now has an exhibition in the perfect setting of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex. Sweeping you along in a haze of colour and energy this is an exciting and exceptional show.


Flowers


Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour covers the work of British artist Icon Hitchens (1893 – 1979), who worked his way towards abstraction over 70 years of painting. More than 70 examples in chronological galleries show the London-born artist Hitchens developing his highly distinctive style, from progressive beginnings in the art world of the 1920s alongside experimental artists Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson, to his retreat to living in Sussex at the outset of the Second World War. And there, in the West Sussex countryside inspired by the South Downs that surrounded him, Hitchens lived for the rest of his life.


Some of his earliest works such as Didling on the Downs and Curved Barn, painted in the 1920s show that downland scenery inspired him from fairly early on in his six decade career.


Curved Barn


Artistic developments on the continent also influenced him, notably the work of Cézanne, Matisse and Braque in France. Still life paintings from the 1930s show these influences; likewise that of Nicholson can be seen in Abstract Composition, 1934.


In the 1940s and 1950s Hitchens painted repeatedly at his secluded Sussex home near Petworth. This gave rise to an extraordinary body of paintings that are deeply rooted in the English landscape. Unsurprisingly, many were painted in the open air.


Terwick Mill is a good example of his working practice. This oil painting from around 1947 - its full title Terwick Mill, no.7, Splashing Fall - is one of twenty versions of the millrace, pool and surrounding landscape at the Mill near Iping. He would paint the same scene over and again, and remarked that “...it is not really the subject that truly interests me, but the many possible ways...of expressing it.”


So expressive, so bosky, liquescent even, are these paintings, so clever their composition and the paint so subtly handled - their very abstraction enhancing any emotional appeal - that you are drawn into them; you can almost feel the cool of the shadows, hear the song of the birds or the water racing under the bridge...


Spring Mood


This is where a concurrent exhibition, Inscapes by artist-photographer Simon Roberts (b.1974) comes into its own. Commissioned by Pallant House, this small display of photographs of Sussex landscapes (beside the café downstairs) is beguilingly complemented upstairs within the Hitchens' show by a series of short-duration Soundscapes. Put on the headsets and let your ears take you into the Sussex countryside where woodland or heathland birds pipe softly, cattle low contentedly, and an airplane drones barely audibly overhead, bringing another dimension to the artist’s views of his favoured locations.


This is the largest retrospective of Hitchens’ work for 30 years, and in my view well worth the trip to Chichester to see.


Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour

Showing until: 13 October 2019

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, West Sussex


For more information CLICK HERE