George Taylor



George Taylor Image
"For over 55 years I have sought to explore the mysteriousness of living through painting. So far as I can see, it is the magic of mystery that creates great art and art without that magic is lifeless."

A Coherent Optimist

A painter's response to the work of George Taylor RBSA

‘I say this silence or, better construct this space
So somehow something may move across’
WS Graham

Lines from WS Graham's poem 'The Constructed Space' provide an introduction to the experience of seeing, possibly for the first time, the paintings of George Taylor who, through his language of abstraction, constructs a visual world of imagined spaces and specific places, much as the poet explores the nature of language to construct selective expressions of complex experience, which result in work 'itself' by circumstances and, left as an object, to be encountered by somebody else.

"George Taylor’s long career as an artist has come from a consistent belief in painting in his own search for a visual language, which through his integrity and commitment towards abstraction has resulted in a body of work which may be considered as equivalent, not necessarily for a specific physical landscape feature so much as an allusion to an unseen, but intensely felt force in nature at a particular time and place.

In a letter to another poet, Robin Skelton, WS Graham said that ‘Silence has no vocation to speak of’. Paradoxically it was Kandinsky who, at the very beginnings of the development of 20th C abstract implied the potential for colours as a visual equivalent for music, an area which was also to be explored by Miro and Paul Klee.

There is for George an optimistic belief in the nature of creativity experienced through the dynamics of risk-taking in visual terms. He explores the potential within the paradoxical nature of a space between certainty and doubt.

It is the very nature of this dynamic that continues to inform his art and provide the fundamental principles underlying his purpose as an artist.

"Certain experiences seem not to
Want to go into language maybe."

These lines from WS Graham’s ‘What is the Language using us for’ seem to touch on the questioning nature of creativity and may also provide a glimpse into the painter’s own search for creative method and meaning.

It was WS Graham’s deep awareness of and friendship with many 20th century artists, particularly during his years living and working in Cornwall, which influenced his work. It is a place which has also been a rich source of inspiration for George as it as been for many contemporary artists as a place of vibrant exploration within the development of 20th century abstract art.

The development of George’s abstract painting has also been constantly grounded in his own journeys to many landscapes, which have continued to provide the source material for his own search for an abstract construct as an equivalent for visual experience within landscape.

It was the work of the American Expressionist painter Willem de Kooning who referred to the elusive nature of perception when he wrote ‘ Content is a glimpse, if everything is changing, never fixed then ones perception must inevitably be incomplete and always in flux’. For de Kooning and by extension a quality to be experienced in the paintings of George Taylor even glimpses slip away before they can be pinned down. It is perhaps indicative of his approach that the elusive nature of perception is explored through time within a long process of constant re-working of, and thinking about, the complex, vibrant spaces and places of his work. He constructs, through abstraction, paintings which have their sources located as much in the interior landscape of thought and emotion as in the perception of and feelings for the external world. His paintings are as much ‘inscapes’ becoming by extension, landscapes of the mind as much as landscapes of specific place.

It was the landscape of Cornwall with its rich tradition that inspired such artists as Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton and Terry Frost. Frost was an artist that George met and knew well and who encouraged him for many years. It was Lanyon who explored landscape space within his work, which was powerfully informed by his experiences walking over and gliding above Cornwall. There is often in George’s paintings an aerial quality as he absorbs multiple and complex perceptions within the structure and surfaces of his imagery. These works present the viewer with ‘terrains’ of imagination over which the eye can travel and experience a visual and evocative journey into the ‘spirit of place’. It is within this quality of aerial and atmospheric sensation, which has deeply influenced much English paintings through its pre- occupation with light and atmosphere and seen in so many artists including John Sell Cotman and Paul Nash, who also incorporated a tendency towards abstraction in their work. Both artists are within George Taylor’s wide ranging awareness of an historical tradition.

Within the 20th century range of influence most evident in his work is his strident and highly emotive use of pure colour and his awareness of such artists as Matisse, Kandinsky and De Stael is very apparent.

Kandinsky often referred to hidden qualities behind the exterior of things, which became more and more apparent as inner knowledge removes the obstacles of the material world. It is within the history of abstract painting that reference can be made to the long and ongoing process of removing obstacles in being able to see abstraction as a direct means of expressing what Kandinsky described as, ‘that which was made through principles of inner necessity’.

George Taylor extends the tradition of pure painting from his own conviction, belief and affinity with the inner mood expressed in the work of past artists and the potential for an emotional response from the contemporary viewer. It is within the relationship between the immaterial nature of the artist’s sensed emotional and the material quality of the constructed image that his paintings extend a contemporary visual language offering the viewer an experience of intense expression. If it is thought which has informed the process of making it is feeling and emotion that have provided the content and meaning of paintings, which share an affinity with Pollock’s dictum of, ‘work in progress which remains in progress’. George takes each work towards a resolution expressed within the terms of his own developing conception of ‘optimum coherence’.

The experience of viewing these paintings provides those hints and glimpses of space experienced in the natural world evolved through mark and gesture into evocations of landscape experiences, which have been absorbed, selected and filtered through the artists sensibility and memory within the constant process of working and re-working, resulting in images, which in are essence, landscapes of the mind, spaces of invention and places of imagination.

Titles provide not only a means of identification for the artist but also references to the origins of the perception of an image within a landscape experience. The paintings move beyond the confines of descriptive, natural appearances by a process of almost alchemical transformation, through thought made visible resulting in works of pure expression by an artist deeply committed to painting and a belief in the essential nature of the creative act.

Drawing has always remained fundamental to George since his early days as a student. His thorough grounding in the traditions of good draughtsmanship has remained the framework and discipline upon which he has developed his work. The linear integrity within which he organises the structures of his compositions is strongly evident. This interest in the importance of line in his method is seen in his deep admiration for such artists as de Kooning, Tapies and William Scott. His approach shares an affinity with de Kooning’s description of his method as improvisation when he says, ‘my purpose is to get as much unknown on the canvas as I can. Then I start digesting and changing. The first thing is to get a great many unfamiliar things on the surface’. The unfamiliar forms that he developed were insistently curving, suggestive without describing natural phenomena. It is this characteristic heaving rhythm in de Kooning’s paintings that can easily evoke the sea, rushing waters or sweeps and spaces of undulating landscape while also remaining abstract. Like de Kooning, George works with the principle of improvisation, exploring within the process in order to discover the nature of the image, finding meaning within each painting which is more than merely the sum of its articulated elements.

In this approach he comes closest to the poet in his use of fragments and moments of form, which allude to, and contain hints of unspecified places and events within his abstract language.

According to the Chinese poet Chang Tzu, in his conception of ‘inward vision’ there is a generalised perception that comes into play only when the distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, between ‘this’ and ‘that’ has been entirely obliterated and it is valid to speak of George Taylor’s commitment to painting and his integrity of attitude at the same time as speaking about such artists as Mark Tobey and Jackson Pollock in his depth of expressions as something, ‘felt’ as much as ‘seen’ and his consistent exploration from ‘inside’ his own experience of space as ‘everywhere’ and ‘anywhere’.

His work is a response in visual terms to colour, light, structure and rhythm locating the place of his art within the perpetual movement of existence. It was, indeed, Pollock, who on being asked of the relationship of nature to his work famously replied, ‘I am Nature’.

George Taylor’s wide interest in 20th century art is evident in an unequivocal tendency in his work towards an abstract and romantic lyricism expressed beyond the limits of perceived Nature and underpinned by his discipline within traditional draughtsmanship.

In an introduction to the prose and poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins titled ‘On Draughtsmanship’ Helen Gardener Wrote, ‘He was an excellent draughtsman and his later skill, as a poet in communicating through words, the essence and individuality of visual forms in Nature was partly fostered by his early training with a pencil’. It was Hopkins first intention to be a painter.

Lines from another poem by WS Graham titled, ‘Hilton Abstract’, which articulates an abstract language may be given here as allusive to the creative process and communication:

‘This can go and that can go
And leaves us with the quick and slow
And quick and slow are nothing much
We either touch or do not touch’

For George Taylor the very process itself in making art has always been a matter of strong independence of spirit and of necessity a matter of risk – taking, trusting, that the viewer’s emotional response will find empathy with his vital and dynamic approach.

It was Roger Hilton, who, although an abstract artist, did not believe in abstraction for its own sake, saying: ‘Abstraction in itself is nothing. It is only step towards a new sort of figuration, that is, one which is more true’, hinting at something other than pure abstraction and the implication of experience from a perceived world ‘out there’. The paintings of George Taylor are passionate works, explored within a constructed space, deep within the human spirit and a belief in its potential to reach a fundamental source, a source which is, and will remain his reason for painting, in his desire for ‘something to move across’, which is, in essence, a true mystery."

Bob Edgson
July 2007

Bob Edgson was born Isle of Sheppey 1945 and studied at Banbury School of Art, Coventry College of Art and Design, West Surrey College of Art and Design, Fine Art Painting, Painting and Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic (1983 - 85) MA Fine Art, Painting. Lives and works in West Norfolk UK.

Career Path ...

George Taylor RBSA

1944, born at Banbury, Oxfordshire. 

1959 – 1963, studied painting full time.

1962 - 1963, worked with Michael Baldwin on wall hung constructions. Baldwin later went on to co-form the pioneering conceptual art collaboration 'Art and Language' with Terry Atkinson.

1963, met and got to know Sir Terry Frost RA well, visiting each others studios frequently. Continued contact until 2003.

1962/1964 circulated with informal group of actors and artists including the film maker Mike Leigh and the artist Patrick Procktor.

1963, set up own working studio and took post in education sector to finance this.

1963 – 1966, showed paintings at former Bear Lane Gallery at Oxford and Playhouse Theatre Gallery, also at Oxford.

Mentioned in “Arts Review” and “Studio” magazines

1966, Awarded Margaret Gardiner Prize for painting on recommendation of Sir Terry Frost RA.

1963 – 1990, continued to work in education to finance studio and to provide for family, whilst painting on a part-time basis. Produced hundreds of non-figurative paintings during this period.

Had considerable success in The Laing Open Landscape Competition both at regional and national level over a number of years.

1990, ceased work in education to paint full time.


Membership and related links ...

George Taylor on Axisweb

Leamington Studio Artists Website

UK Artists online art gallery Galleries The Oxford Art Society The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists


Biography footer image