Friday, 9 July 2010

Joan Eardley

Continuing our occasional series on influences, here's an artist whose work I have recently come to love.
I found Joan Eardley's work accidentally, during a holiday to Scotland, where her work was being shown at a rare retrospective at the Scottish Royal Academy in Edinburgh. She was born in 1921 in Sussex, but made her name in the poverty stricken backstreets of 50s and 60s Glasgow where she had a studio. Neighbourhood kids would come in and sit for her.

I've heard her described as 'Scotland's answer to the Cobra artists of continental Europe or America's Willem de Kooning' - a comparison that isn't as daft as it first sounds. There's a sheer energy to her large-scale works that is incredibly Expressionist in nature - combined with a rawness to her material experimentation (she liked to draw on sandpaper!). Yet she still manages to maintain sensitivity towards her subjects, their lives and experiences.

Eardley herself suffered physical pain through much of her adult life and finally succumbed to cancer in 1963 - aged only 42.

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