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Carol Cordrey about Tim Woolcock

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Dismissing abstract painting as daubs and scribbles applied pell-mell has become a national pastime but I don’t support that view. Many traditionally trained and highly competent artists choose to adopt an abstract style, seeing it as a new challenge and relishing its freedom of expression. Nonetheless, by not attempting to depict recognisable scenes, objects or figures which have formed the backbone of traditional, European art, abstract painters’ talents are, on face value, less obvious to us than those of artists who imitate nature supremely well. Decoding abstract interpretations requires us to get inside the psyche of the artists and to look at life through a new pair of glasses. That is certainly challenging but it makes abstract art all the more enjoyable.

Among the contemporary abstract painters I admire is Tim Woolcock, brought up in Lancashire but a London resident for many years. His first solo exhibition at the Russell Gallery, Putney was a complete sell-out – to the tune of a staggering 57 paintings! At the 2004 Art London in Chelsea, his work sold out in just two days. The light and landscape of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset are his main source of inspiration where his family roots spring from and where numerous holidays have been enjoyed. En route, the influences of the St. Ives Group, such as the late abstract painters Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson OM and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, have seeped into Tim’s work. The rolling West Country landscape, the clear light and the vivid blue sea all reveal themselves in Tim’s new exhibition at the Russell Gallery.

Form and colour are the keynotes, some work hovering between realism and abstraction. An example is September, West Dorset, inspired by a vast patchwork of fields, the kind we all experience when viewing England from an aircraft. This painting incorporates the suggestion of a row of trees, a railways line, a group of buildings and a road but essentially, it is a pared down impression of West Dorset in its autumnal attire.

Tim never paints from life, preferring to garner visual, emotional and physical responses to long town and country walks which he transforms into notes and vivid memories. His paintings start in his London studio as sketches on paper, transferred to plywood or Belgian linen then developed with very strong oil pigments on a glass palette. He is passionate about painting and describes mixing colour tones as “a fascinating alchemy”. Knives are used as much as brushes to apply the paint thickly and often he cuts away or rubs out sections of paint to allow an under-paint or the texture of the canvas or plywood to add another dimension to the work. Tim has used that technique in Turquoise and Grey Abstraction which conveys with elegant simplicity a sense of harmony with the natural world, all of which were recognised features of Hepworth’s work.

Man-made shapes intrigue Tim too,

“They are all around us… bricks… radiators… fabric designs” and they contributed to his evocation of Irish experiences in, Irish Autumn Abstraction. Employing a very restrained palette, Tim has focused purely on the juxtaposition of colour and form in this work. Memories of a West Country coastline were the source of Waves Breaking and here, foaming white surf meets abruptly with the harsh rocks. The brownish tones of the surrounding hills are not exclusively paint but the exposed plywood surface as if the painting, like the landscape, has been weathered by time.

The late Edgar Degas, a painter fascinated with shape and colour said, “When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people”. Tim Woolcock’s responses to the world are accomplished, contemplative and produced with extreme care. Like all good abstract art, they are anything but boring.

TIM WOOLCOCK, NEW WORK will be at The Russell Gallery, 12 Lower Richmond Rd., Putney, Sept. 28-Oct 23

All the paintings can be viewed now on

One of Tim’s paintings will also be auctioned for the CHASE charity at an exhibition at the Royal College of Art on Thursday Nov 9.


Carol Cordrey






















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