Deftly drawn and delicately composed, Derrick Greaves’ sublime Rose was one of a series of canvases that heralded major change in the artist’s later development.
Born in Sheffield in 1927, Greaves first came to the attention of the art world when he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1956 alongside other ‘Kitchen Sink’ painters after graduating from the Royal College of Art. Drawing upon gritty scenes of working class suburban life, the movement sought to make political comment through muted palettes of browns, blacks, and greys.
By the end of the 1970s, however, Greaves had become disillusioned with the social realism of their earlier work. In a significant departure from his austere, representational style, he began to clear his paintings of unnecessary clutter and started implementing new stylistic and compositional techniques.
In these new canvases, later termed ‘collage paintings’, torn paper was carefully collaged and painted to create a textured background for the surface image. Line motifs were then drawn on top, the clarity and precision of the empty outline contrasting with the rough, feathered texture of the painted paper beneath.
In Rose, completed in 1982, these two periods of Greaves’ career – murky Kitchen Sink realism and bright Pop-Art inspired canvases – meet in the middle. The lone vase and its flowers, combined with subdued background colours, recalls the melancholy of earlier still lifes; yet in its minimalism and its restrained abstraction, it marks a definitive moment of change in his approach.
Subtle and sophisticated, Rose ranks among the very best works we have seen from the hand of this respected artist.