While Clive McCartney worked on this new collection for the Catto Gallery, he often painted to the music of the American minimalists such as John Adams and Steve Reich. Anyone familiar with these composers will probably recognise in Clive’s paintings a wonderful pictorial equivalent to the minimalists’ irresistible pulsing compositions.
Take ‘Rush Hour Crowds’, the latest of Clive’s Grand Central Station paintings. This imposing work – far larger than Clive typically paints – has a rhythmic dynamic that’s almost musical in structure. And there’s a similar feel about other paintings in the new collection such as ‘Twilight, Grand Army Plaza’ and ‘People In Time, The British Museum’.
All of these works expertly communicate the themes that have made Clive one of the UK’s most successful and best-loved artists. He travels the world to document the unique light conditions, architecture and ambience of different cities. And he admits that, yes, he is a bit obsessed. “I think I share with many artists the ability to focus on one thing and obsess over it for long periods,” he says.
He’s been doing so for many years. Clive was born in India in 1960, and says he has “been painting for as long as I can remember. It is as natural to me as breathing.” He completed his art education at the Central School of Art in London, and taught at Dulwich College before becoming a highly successful full-time painter. Today, Clive looks for locations with a particular light – a light that blurs the line between figurative art and abstract line.
Last year he found these precise conditions in Montmartre, the region of Paris where so many giants of art settled in the late1800s. Clive was delighted to discover so much of the area away from the tourist hubbub to be unspoiled and quiet. It was here he painted “Study In White’, a trademark exercise in geometry that simultaneously suggests the melancholy of unwalked streets. “I became very interested in Proust when I was in Paris, and his ideas of time past and time present,” says Clive. “I’m not a symbolist painter, but I do like the idea of imbuing apparently ordinary scenes with a deeper meaning.”
Montmartre also appealed because of its white buildings, another technical challenge for a painter who usually paints darker
hues. He even experimented with a layered textured effect in these works to further suggest, he says, a sense of time passing.
While many of those familiar with Clive’s work will be thrilled to see again so many of his trademark light-filled urban canvases depicting Parisian cafes, London bridges, Roman squares and Manhattan avenues, there will be equal delight at his new destinations. For example, Clive spent many weeks in Barbados relishing the challenge to depict its ‘ice cream colours’ for the first time.
How commendable that a mature artist at the height of his powers should still want to push himself this way. And how excellent are the results. In the same spirit, Clive says he is now keen to take on the challenge of scale by painting even bigger pictures. Time to get a new ceiling put in at the Catto.