Last Thursday evening I went to a quite extraordinary exhibition featuring paintings, prints, sculptures, and a couple of pieces of furniture by a really special Artist, Gordon House. I was really struck by the geometric beauty of his Fine Art and sculpture, and mesmorised by an incredibly beautiful pair of chairs (see below) that he had created for himself and his wife to use in their own home. I was very fortunate to meet Gordon’s wife Jo on the night – who is now living in the studio in which Gordon worked, and which she has now named “Gordon House”. Sadly Gordon passed away in 2004, but it was wonderful to see so much of his Art all shown together in one place at Muralto. Somewhat by a miracle of fate, it would seem that the Muralto exhibition is being held in the same building as his first exhibition in 1959 at Dennis Bowen’s legendary New Vision Centre! It really is to the credit of all involved in the organising of this exhibition: Gordon’s family, Gerrish Fine Art and Muralto that such a fine selection of his works are on show.
It ‘s very difficult to know where to begin when talking about about Gordon House. He was so multi-disciplined, and so versatile in his approach that he left an indelible mark on the history of British Design, and also the landscape of British Art. He was an extraordinary Fine Artist, a fact which is not always as well known as should be – largely due to the huge reputation that he held in British Graphic design, which deflected attention away from his fine Art. Friend and collaborator Sir Peter Blake once commented “There were very few Artists who were equally comfortable and talented at being both a painter and a graphic designer, and Gordon House was one such”.
House is particularly well known for the graphics which he produced for the London Art scene in the 60s and 70s, creating his own genre of gallery graphics which are still hugely influential today. He also had an extraordinary talent and vision with regards to screen-printing. At the now famous Kelpra studios, House was the first Artist in Britain to produce a fine Art screenprint. He later opened the White Ink print studio in 1970 along with Cliff White which attracted some of the best British post war Artists around such as R. B. Kitaj, Richard Smith, Joe Tilson, Sidney Nolan, Victor Pasmore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bernard Cohen and Elizabeth Frink.
Of course Gordon also became involved in graphic design within the realm of popular culture and music, and quite famously worked on the typography on the iconic Beatles album sleeves of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the White Album with Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton respectively.
House was part of a group of Artists in the 60s that were reacting against the St Ives school and looking towards American shores for inspiration, and more specifically to Abstract Expresionism. House participated in the famous “Situation” exhibition RBA Galleries. His Fine Art is mostly abstract in form and clearly marked by his graphic eye; it is like a love song to the geometric form. Even his later pieces, which were increasingly influenced by the landscape of his beloved Swansea Valleys, still covey a strong sense of order and geometry.
If you get the chance to go to this exhibiton then you absolutely must. It’s rare to see such assured paintings and sculptures from an Artist that is a big part of modern Art history in Britain, but whose oeuvre is still waiting to become more well known (and then of course there are THOSE chairs!)
Gordon House (1932-2004) Paintings – Prints – Sculpture at the Muralto Showroom is on until the 4th May