John Piper’s strange and strikingly bold Quiberon Bay collage saw the artist return to the abstraction of 30 years previous at a time when his current work seemed as far removed from the genre as it could be.
A painter and printmaker principally working in depictions of buildings and countryside, Piper was known throughout his career as an experimental and technical artist who made the most of his chosen media. In his romantic vision of British landscapes, churches, castles, and stately homes were reproduced in virulent colour with brash and brilliant strokes.
In Quiberon Bay – an inlet off the south coast of Brittany – that same daring approach was applied, but with a return to the abstract visual language of shape and form that had moulded his early years as an artist. Brushed black swipes of wash evoking the dark surface of the sea are offset by jagged overlaid shapes in a variety of inky colours and textures, the use of collage lending each individual element prominence and presence.
It has been said that behind even his most strictly architectural and topographical images, there lie the compositional elements Piper developed in those early years of collage, construction, and assemblage. In this exceptional later work, the power of those same elements is felt in full force.