Michael Kidner’s ethos revived with hidden painting exhibition

A new selection of Hampstead painter Michael Kidner’s work has been found

In deep cupboards of the tall white house in Hampstead Hill Gardens where the artist Michael Kidner lived from 1971 until his death in 2009, several stashes of rarely seen paintings have been discovered. Most were in three rolls of canvases which included many works not displayed since they were made in the Sixties. But Big Pink, the relief painting, with its strips of aluminium foil on wood, was found in a gas boiler room, with its back turned outwards, and initially taken to be part of the heating installation.

These paintings are now in the exhibition Dreams of the World Order, Early Paintings at Flowers in Shoreditch which explores four areas of Kidner’s painting practice: after image, stripe, moir� and wave. He progressed from experiments in the late Fifities with optical effects, inspired by ideas from the Bauhaus and Johannes Itten’s book the Art of Colour, to geometrical works. These were based on “pre-planned sequences of parallel bands of closely valued colour”, according to the art historian Irving Sandler, who said: “The entire surface vibrates, pulsates and flickers, disturbing the focus of the eye.”

Kidner is arguably the first op artist there was in Britain and there are stunning colour juxtapositions and inventive, playful forms among these lively paintings. But perhaps the stars of the show are the small works on paper which have the immediacy of the idea with the freshness of urgency.

The title reflects Kidner’s conviction, formed in the early Sixties, that art based on rational procedures could reveal vital truths about human nature and the underlying order of the universe and had the capability to solve personal and social problems. He was perturbed by developments in world events, including the Vietnam War, and felt a deep sense of unease linked with his perception that the discoveries of science had undermined all the certainties associated with a belief in God.


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As he wrote in 2009 in his memoir The Wild Folly of my Youth, “I felt that to confront this issue I needed to get a better understanding of the language of science, which everyone agreed was mathematics. For me the use of systemic procedures and, in particular, of wave forms became a way of paddling along the shore of a personal sea of ignorance. At least I was getting my feet wet.”

Until next Saturday (October 20) at 82 Kingsland Road E2. Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm.

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