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Light and Colour - Patrick Heron

Paint. Red, blue, green, yellow, purple. All bright, all vibrant. Daring, disproportionate, and exciting, Patrick Heron challenged the use of colour in painting. Shape, light, and colour are elements which were of utmost interest to Heron throughout his career.

Mark Hudson from The Telegraph, explains that Heron’s ability to portray the relationship between his emotion and the physical world is so powerful, that ‘you can sense the atmosphere of the elemental landscape around his house bleeding into these primal forms’.

Turner Contemporary in Margate has pieced together a spectacular exhibition that presents over fifty years of Heron’s work, dating from 1943 to 1996. It invites the viewer to explore a world of form, colour, and light. Heron claimed that his use of colour ‘is both the subject and the means; the form and the content; the image and the meaning, in [his] painting today.’

The predominant odd shapes that cover his canvas, can seem chaotic when viewed from afar. His technique of using colour, form, and shape, are all very fascinating aspects of his work. The prominent but small brush strokes are created through the use of a tiny Japanese brush, which helps depict an overall picture of unity and wholeness. It transports the reader to a different place with each and every painting, creating a new and free space for the mind to roam within.

The exhibition opens with a series of paintings from 1999 (the year of his death), which have never been exhibited before. The evolution of Heron’s painting is clearly visible throughout his lifetime. His paintings are focused and built around dynamism, play, line, and colour.

He was inspired by the great French painters, such as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Pierre Bonnard, all of which also explored form in the 19th century. He was not interested painting the outside world, but rather in creating an equivalent of it in sensations. His desire was to construct a space through the usage of colour. The space becomes flattened, it gains edge, unity, and symmetry. The surface plays an essential part in the abstract painting, especially for Heron.

Heron’s previous experience in silk drawings and glass painting, offered him a different perception of surface and fabric. His preferred subjects were still life, as they allowed him to creatively expand the abstractness within his paintings. It also helped with expressing his own artistic views of the world. Balancing his life as a painter and as an art critic provided him with a well-rounded understanding and foundation for his own artistic experiences, and is something that is clearly shown through the evolution of his paintings.

If you are interested in viewing Patrick Heron’s dynamic paintings, the Turner Contemporary in Margate, is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. Admission to the gallery is also free of charge. For more information check out the website:

Written by Tímea Koppándi.


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