Patrick Jones has a distinguished place in the continuing story of British colour abstraction: he is widely admired for his painterly virtuosity, and above all for the vibrancy of his colour and the boldness of his formal invention. Completely international in outlook, he has constantly looked for creative sustenance to the rich culture of late twentieth century non-figurative painting. Closely aware of the work of his older British contemporaries, particularly John Hoyland, Antony Caro and Terry Frost, in the seventies and eighties he also kept abreast of developments in American painting, living and working in the US for several years, and spending time with several artists among those famously defined by Clement Greenberg as ‘post-painterly abstractionists’.
Among those whose work made decisive and long-lasting impressions on the young artist were Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski and Morris Louis. Frankenthaler was a decisive presence when Jones took part (at Caro’s invitation) in the first of the famous Triangle Workshops in New York State in 1982. What characterised the work of these American artists was an openness of field and a fluidity of manner, a generally de-centred approach to the canvas, with a predilection for the distribution of automatic or non-directional effects of colour, tone and texture on a large scale. Contra composition, they created an imagery using pouring and staining, and colour and textures that were aerial, aquatic, atmospheric and oceanic. The majestic Flow (1982) and Spine (1983) are fine examples of Jones’s painting from the early eighties, when he explored the possibilities of such a style: the former is a spectacular image of centripetal energies, an explosion of marine colour; the latter, with its extraordinary horizontal elongation, a beautiful evocation of the flow and inner-connection of liquid forms.
Jones has consistently avoided being locked into a given mode: constantly experimental and self-questioning, he has never settled for the repetitions of a single signature style. Like all good artists, however, his work has a distinctiveness of touch and intensity of mood that renders it immediately recognisable. A number of more recent paintings evince the vitality and depth of colour that his friend and mentor John Hoyland identified as essentially northern European (he had in mind Nolde, Van Gogh, Matisse… ). Oceania (2008) retains something of the stained atmospherics and flow of the earlier paintings mentioned above, but its structure of parallel horizontal bars, arrayed in three distinct vertical blocks of vital colour, gives it a compositional tension that is utterly original. No Pasaran IV (2008) and Music (2009) share a similar dynamic of brilliant stained and painted diagonal colour forms interacting within an atmospheric shimmer, fuliginous in one, refractive in the other.
Jones’s titles are neither formulaic and conventional, nor portentously symbolic: they reflect his belief that abstractions of form, colour and their dynamic relations can connect through evocation and suggestion to the actualities of the world we live in. They are a means to the examined life.
The above is from Mel Gooding’s introduction to Patrick Jones: Survey, recently on at the Hillsboro Fine Art Gallery, Dublin. You can read John Yau’s review of the exhibition – ‘The Unfashionably Late Modernism of Patrick Jones’ – here. It might be interesting to consider Yau’s text in relation to Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann’s review of Pete Hoida’s paintings.