Gesture and Action National Museum Cardiff

Angel and People (1978), Mali Morris

Angel and People (1978)
Mali Morris
Acrylic on canvas
© Mali Morris. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales.

Well You Needn't (2008) Maurice Cockrill (1936-)

Well You Needn't (2008)
Maurice Cockrill (1936-)
Mixed media on canvas
Lent by the Derek Williams Trust

In the years after the Second World War a new type of abstract painting emerged that stressed the importance of the action or gesture of the artist.

In 1952 the critic Harold Rosenberg summarised this movement when he stated:

‘At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act… what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.’

Paint was poured, dripped, stained and even thrown at the canvas to create the final composition.

The painting acted as a record of an action as well as a statement of the expressive power of the individual.

As this display shows the scale and confidence of American Abstract Expressionism was a major influence on artists working in Britain.

The idea that a painting can be made by an action, event or process continues to be important to artists working today.

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