The Expressive Mark’, a new exhibition at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, celebrates the work of British artists in the second half of the 20th century. Discover a crucial moment in the history of British art, a period where the influence of Abstract Expressionism in America was filtering across the Atlantic. 

Spurred on by the American example of artists such as Jackson Pollock, the inspired British artists produced works on a new scale that embraced the possibilities of abstraction.

A key example of this scaling up is Albert Irvin’s ‘Albion’. On loan for the very first time from the University of Warwick, Albion is impressive in scale, measuring in at over 4.2 metres wide and over 2.4 metres high. Through his large-scale works Irvin looked to portray the thoughts, feelings and emotions in his life via the medium of expressive mark making.

Albert Irvin, Albion, 1977. University of Warwick Art Collection. © The Estate of Albert Irvin. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019.

Anne Goodchild, Guest Curator of ‘The Expressive Mark’, said: 

“To the post war generation of painters a new freedom of expression was offered by renewed contact with continental developments. This liberation resulted in a wide range of individual responses which showed an ambition of scale and energy frequently expressed in visceral, gesturally directed artistic practice.” 

“This exhibition seeks to showcase something of the diversity and dynamism of that practice.” 

The exhibition highlights paintings from the University of Leeds’ own outstanding collection, including Trevor Bell’s ‘Image of Blues’. This was the first abstract painting that Audrey Burton ever purchased. She recounted saying to her husband Stanley, “you’ll never guess what I’ve done…” She gave the work to the University alongside a major gift of funds to refurbish the Gallery in 2007. 

Trevor Bell, Image of Blues, 1960. © Estate of the Artist. Image credit University of Leeds.

Alongside such examples of British abstract art are loans from across the country. Artists on display include Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton and Gillian Ayres.  

When research began for the exhibition, the discovery was made that ‘Camellia Garden: March 1956’ by Patrick Heron, on loan to us from a private collection, was originally owned by Stanley Burton. It is possible that ‘Image of Blues’ and ‘Camellia Garden: March 1956’ have not been hung in the same room since they were in Stanley and Audrey Burton’s home. It’s a delightful coincidence that they are now reunited in the Gallery that bears their names. 

‘The Expressive Mark’, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery. Image credit University of Leeds.

A staunch favourite in the Tate Gallery, London, Gillian Ayres’ ‘Distillation’ has made a trip up north. Ayres was inspired by the work of the North America expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, however she found her own unique way of making marks and expressing her art on canvas, or in this case hardboard. She used everything from rags to pouring paint to express her themes of space, colour and balance.   

Accompanying the exhibition is a new richly illustrated catalogue, available to purchase both in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and via our online shop. 

A new series of short videos about ‘The Expressive Mark’ has been created, featuring Guest Curator Anne Goodchild, for our visitors to delve into from home. Watch the videos on our YouTube channel. 

‘The Expressive Mark’ is on display now at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, until 2nd April 2022. 

Visit our website to plan your visit.