The Directors of Marlborough Fine Art are delighted to announce their forthcoming carefully-selected mini-retrospective of previously unseen paintings, drawings and prints by Ken Kiff that covers all aspects of his work and periods of his career from the early 1960’s to his untimely death from cancer in 2001.
The late Norbert Lynton, who played such a decisive role in bringing Kiff’s work to public view, wrote: ‘Ken’s paintings I found amazing from the start: enchanting, then suddenly quite harsh and distancing, later more relaxed, sometimes positively joyful, often mysterious, drawing one into their depths with their colours and visual textures.’
Lynton admitted that his primary allegiance was to abstract art, but that he could not resist the appeal of Kiff’s work. ‘The first paintings I saw reflected the great classical tradition of serenity, then others approached Eastern mysteries, picturing animals and symbols as well as personages; sunshine was common to them all.’ And Lynton pointed out how intensely Kiff cared about what he was working on and the art he admired. ‘This dual activity, caring through his own work and caring through attention, was central to him.’
Although there is frequently a humorous or witty aspect to his imagery, Kiff took his work very seriously and was very critical of it. As Norbert Lynton said, ‘he meant to be in the company of the immortals, nothing less would do’. Now, nearly seven years after his death, the particular strengths of his vision are emerging ever more clearly. He was an extraordinary and lyrical colourist, a fine draughtsman and an inventive printmaker. The way he saw the world, its characters and situations, has much in common with the structures of myth and fairy tale. Through symbolic narrative he explored man’s condition, in imagery of great sympathy and subtlety. At the same time he was an intensely formal artist, who saw no fundamental difference between his work and Mondrian’s, and stressed the abstract qualities of his pictures. He thought in terms of paint rather than subject-matter, allowing impulse and the energy of process to generate his imagery.
Kiff’s own artistic pantheon included Picasso, Klee and Miro. It is time to see his work in that kind of company rather than think of it as in some way obscure and literary. The work demands it.
A fully illustrated catalogue with a foreword by Andrew Lambirth will be published. For further information, please contact John Erle-Drax, Mary Miller or Frankie Rossi on 0207 629 5161, firstname.lastname@example.org.