6th December 2011


This landmark exhibition by John Hitchens is the first to give an overview of his work.  It falls into two parts, work from the late 80s when he was still depicting landscape with a naturalistic palette and strong figurative content and recent work where he uses a controlled palette of earth coloured pigments, paring the landscape down to a more rigorous, formal pattern.

Linking the two periods are the sand paintings where the artist poured liquid paint onto wet-running sand photographing the random effects, which look like images of earth from space.

The show is unique in presenting work created over a 30-year period, never before exhibited thus explaining the evolution of the artist’s current painting style.

The son of artist, Ivon Hitchens, John grew up at Graffham, West Sussex in a wooded, landscape nestling below the South Downs.  While he has painted much further afield, the West Sussex countryside, where he still lives, has provided him with inspiration for much of his life.   The gallery is a renovated Sussex barn, located in an idyllic landscape just a few miles from where Hitchens created this work creating a wonderfully atmospheric setting for the show.

The early paintings in the exhibition represent a summation of his first style.  They are large in scale (some measuring as much as 2 metes long) and have never been exhibited before.  After painting the land beneath the open sky and the changing light and weather conditions, Hitchens realized that the sky, for so long the starting point for the mood of a painting, had in fact become a limitation.  He was searching for the compositional freedom to express the formation of the land and a vigorous, gestural means of expression.  These paintings see him flattening the perspective to eliminate the sky and horizon, and entering deep into the woodland analyzing the shapes and patterns of trees, clearings, light and shade.

From this last period of gestural evocation his style evolved to incorporate a much stronger feeling of form in complex compositions of flat, articulate colour.  The rectangular boundaries of the paint surface were abandoned as he made a series of work based on circles, inspired by ancient stone circles – later opening up to include pathways crossing the ritual circle.

Hitchens’s latest work refers back to the circle and line, the basis of most of creation but incorporates a myriad of references gleaned from years of studying the landscape.  The circles of growth rings observed in trees and throughout nature, the lines of strata and sediment, contour lines of hills and fields, the cross connectedness of organisms; from large scale to microscopic also, the organic surface of the landscape, seen from an aerial perspective such as the bands of pointillist stubble, dark tones of plough lines and dots of fencing.

This exhibition runs concurrently with The Summer Sculpture Show: New Work by Richard Aumonier, Leonie Gibbs  Jonathan Loxley, Gilly Sutton and Paul Vanstone  for which a separate press release  is available.