One hundred and thirty one

Horizontal Stripe Painting: November 1957-January 1958

1957-8 by Patrick Heron
The Tate

Heron’s work has immediate association with Rothko, this piece especially in terms of colour to Rothko’s ‘Untitled’ from 1949 (postcard 113). However, there is something distinctly different in them; Rothko’s spontaneous canvases are bold in their almost immediate materialisation, colour seeps it seems from the canvas itself. Heron’s work appears a lot more considered, tighter in execution, and the paint more dominant in its heavy layering. Paint stripes the canvas in an horizontal emphasis that cannot help but summon the many imprints of horizons burnt in orange on our memory. The painting is full of the intense warmth of the sun in its bands of colour; highlights of yellow and white are brilliantly bright, bold across the bottom of the painting while light in the top half is beautifully subtle — a red sky crossed with the hint of a setting sun behind. This change of approach in texture is reflective of the progression hinted at throughout the painting. Heron is not spontaneous but slowly constructs; building, he allows his light to develop across the canvas in a way expressive of time. It is no wonder that we may see not only the setting of sun in this horizon, but also an unforgiving white sky plagued by light as well as the violet of dawn. It is apt that Heron gives us his time scale in the title, outlining this growth across time, reaffirming the painting’s intensity not only through the depth of paint but also through the realms of time.

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