Positive and negative space: Patrick Caulfield

The course points out the work of PATRICK CAULFIELD (1936 – 2005)

William Feaver writes a sensitive obituary about Patrick Caulfield in the Guardian:

His paintings, invariably stylish, allusive, celebratory, inventive, range from profuse to succinct and all of them are substantiated by wily observation and deadpan wit. … Never fulsome, never unacceptably confident, he worked with fastidious panache. Middle-management office equipment and character restaurant decor were inspiration for him and not simply as prompts and props. The paintings absorbed banalities. The painter rendered them worthy, memorable, cherishable even, as emblems of modern life.

Some of his works are in the gallery, they are beautiful examples of what the course asks us to look into, namely positive and negative space. The earlier works tend to use bold colours and black outlines. He showed an extraordinary mastery at simplifying the image whilst losing nothing he considered important.

“Pottery” is painted from a graduated perspective to give the sense of stacking, there is almost no negative space at all.

The Tate website tells of Patrick Caulfield’s association with the painting traditions of Modern European masters, particularly with Cubism. His final work, “Braque curtain”, painted for his wife, two weeks before his death, pays homage to Georges Braque’s painting The Duet (1937). They suggest that: the transition of light and time – revealed in the play of natural light glowing through the bright curtain and the duality of a dark lamp eclipsing or casting a silhouette against an orange lamp – suggest mortality is a subject at the heart of the painting.

Strangely, for me it was the harsh light of the window that felt like threatening mortality, with the lamp and its glow still sheltered in their alcove giving a sense of protection and intimacy. Different view.