b. 1926, London, UK
Lives and works in London, UK
All images © Leon Kossoff.
In Post-war British art radical work tended towards various styles influenced by the modern art of Paris and New York such as Surrealism, abstraction and Pop Art. Alongside these parallel movements there existed another kind of art pioneered by a group of loosely associated artists later labelled The School of London. What they had in common was a firm belief that they could find new ways to create realist paintings and reinvent the representation of the human figure to make it relevant in a world traumatised by the Second World War.
ARTFORUM Summer 2009 Leon Kossoff MITCHELL-INNES & NASH Leon Kossoff's painterliness invites us to scan the image of subconscious meaning—to play on Anton Ehrernzweig's idea of the way we approach what he calls "gestalt-free painting"—and the meaning we find involves what Freud called "primary process thinking," and traces of what D.W. Winnicott, elaborating and deepening Freud's idea, called "primary creativity," by which he meant the spontaneity innate to us all yet often stifled or channeled into trivial pursuits by society.
'It's very private, this relationship with paintings, how they get inside your mind... When you are drawing a painting you see and experience it differently, your mind wakes up.' For most of his life, Leon Kossoff has been coming to London's National Gallery to study and sketch its Old Masters. With some of these drawings about to go on show at Frieze Masters Jackie Wullschlager joins the artist for a tour of his favorite paintings.
"Leon Kossoff has drawn and painted London relentlessly for more than six decades. Today, at 86, he can still be found sketching the street corners that have inspired him throughout his remarkable career. London is "Kossoff's Venice, his city of vista and movement," wrote Andrea Rose in the catalogue for "London Landscapes," a major exhibition that she curated for the artist's four galleries--Annely Juda Fine Art in London, Galerie Lelong in Paris, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, where it is on view November 7 through December 21, before moving on to L..A. Louver in Los Angeles."
Leon Kossoff's love affair with London
All his life, Leon Kossoff has felt compelled to draw and paint his native London. In the nearest that he has ever come to giving an interview, the artist, self-effacing as ever, explains how he has spent decades trying to get it right.
Taking into account the slow, majestic pace at which he works, Leon Kossoff’s new solo show at Annely Juda in London, travelling next year to New York and California, may well be the last in his lifetime. Until Dec 17, www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk; Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, May 5- June 18 2011; LA Louver, Venice, California, Sep 8-Oct 8 2011
Leon Kossoff's painterliness invites us to scan the image for subconscious meaning--to play on Anton Ehrenzweig's idea of the way we approach what he calls "gestalt free painting"--and the meaning we find involves what Freud called "primary process thinking," and traces of what D.W. Winnicott, elaborating and deepening Freud's idea, called "primary creativity," by which he meant the spontaneity innate to us all yet often stifled or channeled into trivial pursuits by society.
For pure cussedness it's hard to beat the London painters who came to prominence in the wake of WWII. A generation younger than the abstract Expressionists artists such as Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud shared with their New York colleagues a sense of existential angst, expressed through an extended process of scraping out and overpainting that reflected their quest to encapsulate intense feeling by sheer insistence.
There is no getting away from the fact that Leon Kossoff's early paintings are deeply weird, "deeply" being the operative word. These works are more like some form of sculptural relief than painting per se – they are certainly as far as you can get, physically and theoretically, from Clement Greenberg's notion (contemporary with these works) of "ineluctable flatness."