Terry Frost is one of the most important British painters of the twentieth century. He was a modernist who worked in Cornwall and then Yorkshire, producing abstract work which has a fine sense of colour and line. I hadn’t seen his work properly before but the exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery gave me a chance to have a good look at some of his best work and I liked it very much.
I spent a long time looking at two of his Yorkshire paintings, High Yellow, Yorkshire c1955 and Orange and Black, Leeds c1957.
High Yellow suggested to me a patchwork of fields seen from above. It is a beautifully balanced work- calming and satisfying to look at. Abstraction with its roots in the natural landscape where I grew up. I would have liked to take it home.
Orange and Black is a very dynamic painting with plenty of energy and presence. It would dominate any room that you put it in and the sheer depth of vibrant colour seems to glow with a light of its own. It is almost like a stained glass window and your eye is led into its depths through the central shape and the vertical lines.
In the 1960s he taught in California and some of the bright, playful sculpture and painting that he produced at that time is also on display. I liked the earlier work that was more rooted in landscape better but the hanging discs casting shadows on the white walls of the gallery looked very much at home.
I wish that the group of small children who were adrift among the paintings in high visibility jackets with their nursery staff had found someone to engage with them. One of two of them were showing an interest in the colours and shapes on the walls but they needed someone to ask them what they thought. It was the kind of work that might have given them something to talk about if the right questions had been asked. A lovely, uplifting selection of work which is a nice legacy of someone who knew how to look.