Seeds of Abstract Art in St Ives, Allan Storer.

Photo 12-07-2013 14 18 50

Wave splashing Seal Island, Allan Storer.

The traditional view of  art in St Ives tends to focus on Cornwall’s stimulating landscape and nature as a source of inspiration  The sweeping St. Ives light and its battered windswept coast caressed with a sub tropical climate in the summer months is an inevitable attraction factor for art enthusiasts and holiday visitors alike.

Historically artists in the modernist camp will argue that Britain has had little expectation from its artists with an emphasis purely on the traditional and little on experimentation. The artist with palette and brushes in his hand poised to paint a picturesque scene always favoured the stereotype image with little interest in the successful abstract painter.

However following World War II a small group of British Modernist engaged in the exploration of something else were to become Britain’s international representatives of abstract art, sowing the seeds of abstraction. Experimenting with mark and gesture, the use of material and paint, their work was comparable to a host of international artists including Jackson Pollock,and Mark Rothko leading the world in the US,. with Jean Dubuffet in France and Alberto Burri in Italy. The beginning of a fresh,approach, a reinterpretation of traditional thinking.

Indeed coincidence or “chance” has certainly played its part in St. Ives eminence in the development of British modernism. Fundamental were Euston Road School artist Margaret Meliss and art critic Adrian Stokes. Married in 1938 they moved to St. Ives in 1939 in a bid to escape WWII London and purchased “Little Parc Owles” in Carbis Bay.

Soon to move in were friends Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth including their triplets, nurse and housekeeper.  For several months Margaret and Adrians life was “turned upside down”. Margaret became interested in the works of naive painter Alfred Wallis and Ben encouraged her to paint small abstracts, at the same time monopolizing Ben’s studio until he was forced to move out and paint elsewhere. Naum Gabo and his wife Miriam and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, the latter also from Hampstead came too.

Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson were soon to come to the fore of a small group of modernists along with artists Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Alan Davie, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Bryan Wynter and Peter Scott. Other visitors included Victor Passmore, Graham Sutherland, William Coldstream, Julian Trevelyan, Bryan Winter, Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Sven Berlin and Hyman Segal. .

Cut off from the mainstream and financially viable, St Ives provided a safe refuge for individuals promoting the values of international modernism. Detached from the mass prejudice of post war Britain and Europe manifested in themes of patriotism and nationalism a modernist art culture was allowed to develop though not without casualties and the integration of abstraction with its international similarities stretching beyond our shores, let alone the small St. Ives community resulted in an acrimonious split in the small community, culminating in the founding of the Porthmeor Group.

The Cornwall land and seascape essentially part influenced the artists and abstract art developed inclusively alongside the external factors and visual parallels of abstraction on an international level. Following cubism and the crisis of  post WWII. modern art; contemporaries with common goals encountered similar technical and ethical issues in their experimentation with painting and pictorial space.

In this context the practice and principles of naive artist retired St. Ives fisherman Alfred Wallis in particular and the potter Bernard Leach contrasting sharply with sophisticated mainstream culture complemented Ben Nicholson’s  own ideas re.form and space.  Their work to become central embodiments at the heart of artistic practice.

A new postwar generation of artists just had to question pre war values, as Lawrence Alloway recognised.  Art “could neither start again, nor stay as it was, as if nothing had happened” it was now ” torn by conflicts of prewar formality and postwar directness”..


Allan Storer working impasto on wave painting.

Allan Storer, MA. St Ives Art,, Seeds of Abstraction, synopsis.

Why Abstract Art?  Why Not Abstract Art?  writer Allan Storer,

Now all I want is facts”, 

says Mr. Gradgrind the hard nosed. sharp tongued head teacher in Charles Dickens’ tenth novel, “Hard Times”.

>I can imagine that tick boxer Gradgrind, disciple of  Birbeck’s Utilitarianism, objector to freedom of thought and deviation in class, will ring his hands in despair if faced with the prospect of purchasing an abstract painting and hanging it over his desolate hearth.

At their worse Gradgrinds see imagination as weakness and wholly unnecessary in a civilised society.  Feelings, the very trait that defines humanity are sentimental tosh.  Removing what one deems to be “fanciful thought and practise”, will enable a more productive, dehumanised, Gradgrind  individual.  One overly concerned with the external and material; unable to reach inside and rouse their unconscious feelings; their reality pragmatic and external.

Shall I Presume  140cm x 140cm oil on canvas 

  allan storer

With a belief that  the only way  of dealing with the real world is purely cognitive and that practical reasoning reigns supreme.  As such they feel it necessary to  attribute meaning to everything,  bringing the  unknown little mysteries of life within their grasp of human understanding. As a consequence the mystique and numinous becomes trivial and explainable. Now contained within the narrow confines of human understanding the marvelous is reduced to the banal.   (Jung)
The very connotations of something “Abstract” fly in the face of this concept. Existing in thought or as an idea with no physical or concrete existence, abstract thought embraces concepts such as love, beauty and humanity. Meaning and value is a personal, subjective affair contrary  to a Gradgrindian  deterministic, prescriptive system.

No Sound of Water  90cm x 90cm oil on canvas

 allan storer

> There is an honesty and purity with abstract art, almost an innocence, it does not attempt to denote art representative  of external reality as interpreted by the collective populace; It is one in the eye for Mr. Gradgrind and his ilk. Challenging and questioning  deep rooted expectations.His shortcomings and insecurity are exposed, he dare not look too closely, disempowered Gradgrind will attempt to hang on to his world of man made belief systemis, unable to cope with that which is not imitatable and plays his game.
The paradox is that abstract art is real, it creates its own reality whilst still retaining the quality of mystique.
This is creative integrity and paradoxically has more to do with reality/ than copying that which externally already exists .
Artist Gerhard Richter…….

“My pictures are devoid of objects; like objects, they are themselves objects.”

Art is, Richter again ” what makes us human…. making sense and giving shape to that sense. It is like the religious search for God”

In My Minds Eye 100cm x 100cm oil on canvas

 allan storer

To paint without reference is not easy because  arbitrary choice and chance play an important part.  When I begin painting I have no idea or plan as to what it will look like when finished. I am looking for balance and rhythm. The painting has to take on its own visual language and inform me when it is finished.   Indeed more often or not it is never finished in the conventional sense and is an evolving process.The painting may say to me, “I am finished” at any stage in its development, when it becomes proper and meaningful to myself or a viewer. It has nothing to do with what I can see, it is what I can feel; the sensation.  I am searching for something else, like Gerhard Richter,
” looking for rightness……. That excludes painting in imitation. In nature everything is always right: the structure is right, the proportions are good, the colours fit the forms. If you imitate that in painting, it becomes false.”

In One Appearence 70cm x 80cm oil on canvas

 allan storer

Richter  denounce all content in abstract art, as “without a reason, without a function and without a purpose. This is the quality that counts.” The abstract painting devoid of imitated representation is in fact the work of art in itself.  A complete invention of shapes, colours, and textures  embracing freedom, imagination and passion and in my case the chance encounter between medium and process.
> The work transmits specific feelings, messages, memories or whatever for the viewers personal interpretation.  It makes no attempt to patronise endowing the viewer with autonomy and the freedom to think over and above artistic authorship.
A private exchange between art and viewer enabling and connecting.
allan storer
“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, And human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect.”
–E.M. Forster, Howard’s End

Age To Age 100cm x 100cm oil on canvas

 allan storer

 the epigraph “only connect” suggests a positive imperative for making ties, it also implies despair for the difficulties of making those connections. The story weaves in and out of the tension between ideological visions of connection and the obstacles created by an often hostile world.
” I had proved my system to myself, and I have rigidly administered it; and I must bear the responsibility of its failures. ……… I have meant to do right.’ He said it earnestly, and to do him justice he had. In gauging fathomless deeps with his little mean excise-rod, and in staggering over the universe with his rusty stiff-legged compasses, he had meant to do great things. Within the limits of his short tether he had tumbled about, annihilating the flowers of existence with greater singleness of purpose than many of the blatant personages whose company he kept.”
Mr. Gradgrind.
— Charles Dickens, Hard Times.

Some Floating Thing  70cm x 80cm oil on canvas

 allan storer

wise and wonderful 120x150cm


Katherine Maginnis and David Curzon  request the pleasure of your company at the

 Curzon Gallery 
2013 Christmas Art Exhibition. 

We will be exhibiting exciting new contemporary abstract oil paintings, by professional London artist Allan Storer.
If you would like more information please contact us at Curzon Gallery

Meet the artist: Sunday 1st December 12pm – 5pm drinks
Special viewing day: Sunday 8th December 12pm – 5pm drinks

Meet the artist: Sunday 15th December 12pm – 5pm drinks 

The Curzon Gallery 35 Church Road Wimbledon Village London SW19 5DQ
Exhibition runs from 29th. November till 25th January 2014



Gerhard Richter Inspired Abstract

Pure Non Representational Art

I visited artist Gerhard Richter’s exhibition at the Tate Modern, 2011 to January of this year and was completely enthused by his “Cage Series” of six paintings and the philosophy behind these.

I loved musician John Cage’s quote upon which Gerhard Richter based the series.

” I have nothing to say and I’m saying it “

In Richter’s work I found resonance sympathetic to my Surrealist background. In my  Wimbledon Studio I am now engaged on several  abstract oil paintings, 140x140cm. and 110x110cm   canvases, wholly inspired by Gerhard Richter. I will be using a large squeegee and several palette knives of differing sizes to accomplish the final impasto works .

Like Richter’s these paintings have no preconceived plan or design, more an accumulation of decisions and marks made at the moment and then a lot of these decisions and marks eliminated.

This paradox is the painting.

From a Jungian perspective our need to attribute” meaning” is an unnecessary human frailty; we interpret within a narrow experience taking away the mystique and spiritual.

These paintings suggest an uncertain and inconsistent expectation. There is no completion. Change is imminent; but what? The solution is a mystery, the spiritual quest remains,

From my Romantic Surrealist perspective,

“ I know nothing if I know everything”
I think!

Allan Storer.

“Nothing is ever perfect / if a thing is perfect it’s finished / nothing is ever finished / if a thing is finished it’s dead / nothing is ever dead / if a thing is dead / its many parts continue in other forms / everything is constantly changing / change is the only constant thing / in life.”
— Bob Devereux. St, Ives Poet


Required Viewing, Storer’s Squeegees, Allan Storer Abstracts
Storer attacks the colour’s space dragging the colour this way and that.  At first it looks like an amateurish mess, then he transforms it with his large squeegee, scraping complicating spaces and  forms.
He steps back, saying he needs  to make it better whilst retaining the painting’s  spontaneity.  It looks good but Storer says “It won’t hold up, may be a day or two then I’ll see”.
The squeegee is large enough to cover the width of the canvas and Storer drags it down across the entire length. This next squeegee is shorter, and so is the next, the palette knife almost insignificant. The painting shifts back and forth between finished and unfinished. He says it is finished. The textured surface, containing multiple colours is dominated by one colour.
Storer loads his  squeegee saying the dominant colour spoils the painting and off  he goes again!
Eventually, we see the completed painting at a gallery, Then he will admit it is finished, or will he? These paintings are required viewing.

and so much more

Charles Aston

Richter inspired “squeegee” painting, Allan Storer

 It was refreshing, writes Allan Storer, to hear Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate Art Galleries, speaking at the launch of the Tate’s annual report and urging the Government to teach the arts in schools; warning that not to would put the UK’s  “creative edge” at risk.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has put the Baccalaureate in place to be taught in schools in England from 2015. Initially covering English, maths and the sciences, it will later include history or geography and a language.

Serota expresses many parents concern when he fears there might no longer be room in the school timetable for art, design, dance, drama or music.

The arts are fundamental he says enabling young people to express themselves, to achieve success in later life” and “there is a real risk that fewer and fewer schools will provide learning opportunities in the arts”.

The UK’s leading edge in creativity may be lost,” Sir Nicholas added, referring to the February 2012 report on arts teaching in schools written for the government by Darren Henley, of Classic FM.

Although the report gave a firm endorsement of the importance of cultural learning in the curriculum and received a favourable response from government, Sir Nicholas said he was concerned its proposals would not be implemented commenting, “the arts were central to a rounded curriculum”.

 “Pupils at schools where the arts were integrated into the curriculum showed stronger performance in maths, English, critical thinking and verbal skills” and that a great body of evidence had been gathered over the past 20 or 30 years which demonstrated that schools which gave time to cultural learning, benefit both in that sphere and also to the other disciplines. Serota went on to say

“By making art a part of the national curriculum, we give the next generation of artists, designers, engineers, creators and cultural leaders the opportunity to develop the imagination and skills that are vital to our future.”

To enjoy school and function as normal individuals young people require more creativity and less emphasis on drilling and teaching to the test” Lord Bew.  BBC Radio 4’s Today programme

The fact that art can and does make a considerable positive difference in the way we connect to the world is one I can wholeheartedly appreciate after many years working in an educational environment with young people and adults experiencing complex emotional needs, a fact that I believe any school of thought, govt. society or community will ignore at its own peril.

“Education Through Art,”

One of Britain’s most influential editors, poet, academic, teacher, critic of literature and art and defender of children, Sir Herbert Edward Read, DSO, MC,  (1893–1968), a towering figure in education, in his publication, “Education Through Art,” 1943, strongly argued that education should be synonymous with art and he identified aesthetic values with life values. This publication marked a turning point, and historic benchmark in the culture of education.

Read’s quote,  “Art leads the child out of itself” (Read, 1966, p.56) appears to be lost in present educational methodology and practice.

Read argues that Children speak with an open heart; and their language is an aesthetic, unconscious, involuntarily expression of many things that reflect their inner life, Art he says allows the child to feel and follow. To create, observe, listen, believe, and encounter.  We adults cannot feel or see their world as a child does, through our conventional lives.  We have long forgotten and fail to appreciate the child’s artistic impact on the world.

In, and out of school, children are not just expressing themselves; they are expressing themselves in aesthetic ways.

Unconsciously the child, Read observed, feeds upon its own personality, dancing, singing, creating characters and situations in an aesthetic world of conversations, activities, and stories formed from the childhood experience..

Importantly giving the child a voice and allowing him or her to think “outside the box” and permission to express an opinion; to question what he or she may perceive to be the many challenges of growing up.

Children, through art experience bring out into the open these sensitive issues. How they construct their perception of the real in their artwork involves the full expressiveness of their psychological capacities.  

Art can and does provide a coping and, or defence mechanism in the process of socialisation and in more extreme cases is a coping mechanism allowing us to act out socially unacceptable impulses by converting them into a more acceptable form.

In psychology this is termed sublimation a mature type of defence mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are consciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behaviour, possibly converting the initial impulse in the long term. Freud saw sublimation as serving a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions “making it possible for higher psychical activities, scientific, artistic or ideological, to play such an important part in civilised life”.

For example, a person experiencing extreme anger of frustration might well express himself or herself through “angry art” or physical sport as a means of venting frustration.

I know that that young people and vulnerable adults all with complex needs and emotional issues feel they have no voice in a modern society which is not alien to their everyday basic, simplistic needs. Despite our technological progress and drive for economic prowess there is still an element of the “hunter, gatherer in society. Individuals who simply want to work and live are not interested in the high expectations of a goal orientated, market led economy.    These individuals relying on imagination and instinct to survive cannot and do not naturally identify with the apparent corporate and consumer image of modern Britain. 

In this context Nicholas Serota’s concern of “cultural learning. …being more important than ever” and “that the arts have a primary role to play in a world that is dependent on literacy of all kinds, including visual,” I feel is almost prophetic.

Public cuts to arts will affect every child in the country and as Serota says there is the ” real risk that fewer and fewer schools will provide learning opportunities in the arts. The UK’s leading edge in creativity may be lost.”

I see other problems too, in that a whole generation of children will lose their sense of culture as well as the ability to analyse, question and exercise choice. The coping skills they need to live fulfilling successful lives.

Source BBC News Education Report September 2012

allan storer’s latest large abstract

oil paint  140 cm x 140

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