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Book Review. Adrian Berg

Book Review. Adrian Berg

Book Review. Adrian Berg

The book and exhibition begin in the mid-1960s with a series of large-scale landscape paintings created shortly after he graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1961. Berg, who was eight years older than Hockney, was crucial in spreading his love of literature and poetry because he was slightly older than most of his classmates. Perhaps his academic background (he originally wanted to study medicine) helped him to have the patience and focus on botanical detail.

Unique in British art

The ability to create detailed perceptual sketches from nature led to the recording of transitory Regent’s Park detail. They are inspired by a wide range of art historical influences, including Italian tapestries and Monet. The way he takes the studies and turns them into visual music is unlike anything else in British art. Hockney’s fascination in the seasons, as seen in works like Grass (1964) and October (1968), may have prompted him to paint The Four Seasons, many years after his pop art works and while residing in Los Angeles (2012).

Short days and grey Scottish skies

Berg’s art was introduced to me by Peter Fuller at the Serpentine Gallery in 1986, shortly after I moved to the UK from Australia. I found Berg’s visually stimulating palette encouraging as I tried to acclimate to short days and dreary Scottish sky. I found more exact yet experimental constructed pieces than Arthur Boyd’s Four Times of Day, Pulpit Rock (1982) in works like Untitled (R]egent’s Park Dusk) (1982), which was included in the Frestonian exhibition, and Gloucester Gate, Regent’s Park, Night, Autumn (1982). (1983). (At the time, I was working on my PhD on Boyd.)

Book Review. Adrian Berg

Wide acclaim in the London art world

After spending 30 years in London and Suffolk, Boyd returned to Australia and created his Bundanon work. For 25 years, Berg’s Regent’s Park paintings were his only focus, and he garnered widespread praise in the London art scene. Solo exhibits at the Serpentine Gallery (1986), the Barbican Centre (1993), and the Royal Academy (1994) provided the most substantial attention (1999 and 2009).

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Persian rugs and non-western art patterns

Berg lived and worked in the Paul Nash terrace at Cambridge Gate, Regent’s Park, from 1964, providing him with the ideal vantage position for uninterrupted painting. There appears to be a familiarity with formal Italian Renaissance gardens, Persian rugs, and non-western art patterning in his Regent’s Park pieces.

The paintings in the Frestonian exhibition

The late-period paintings in the Frestonian exhibition range from the compositionally excellent Beachy Head works (1994-96), through his magnificent depictions of Kew Gardens’ glasshouses, and lastly to his masterful triptych, Stourhead 25th, 26th, and 27th June (2000). Enter the Garden (2010), the exhibition’s final piece, was completed a year before his death in 2011, at the age of 82.

Book Review. Adrian Berg

Ecological concerns

Berg’s implicit insistence on humanity’s responsibility for treating nature respectfully could not be more urgent or necessary today, with ecological concerns at the forefront of the agenda and a new generation desperately demanding measures to save the planet from damaging climate change that would irreversibly jeopardize our species’ and all manner of living things’ long-term survival.

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The future of art itself

Berg’s continual reinvention of the parameters of painting, his recurrent affirmations that as a medium it is as alive as ever and as vital a method of conveying a coherent world perspective, is a reason for joy within the narrower but essential problem of the future of art itself. Berg’s paintings, a decade after his death, bring us back to the present moment, to a deep awareness of our surroundings, and to the delight that can be found in looking very carefully at the world and altering it according to our own eyes and temperament, as he did.

Among the best landscape paintings ever created in the United Kingdom

Berg’s continual reinvention of the parameters of painting, his recurrent affirmations that as a medium it is as alive as ever and as vital a method of conveying a coherent world perspective, is a reason for joy within the narrower but essential problem of the future of art itself. Berg’s paintings, a decade after his death, bring us back to the present moment, to a deep awareness of our surroundings, and to the delight that can be found in looking very carefully at the world and altering it according to our own eyes and temperament, as he did.

Berg’s art is among the best British landscape paintings, grounded in perceptual observation yet full of the energy of optimism.

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