Andrew Lambirth

Dancing lines

<strong>Leon Kossoff: Unique Prints</strong><br /> <em>Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter's St, London, N1, until 21 June</em> <strong>Paintings of Stockport by Helen Clapcott</strong><br /> <em>Stockport Art Gallery, until 28 June</em>

Leon Kossoff: Unique Prints
Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter’s St, London, N1, until 21 June

Paintings of Stockport by Helen Clapcott
Stockport Art Gallery, until 28 June

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) is best known as a painter of people and buildings, rendered in thickly meshed paint surprisingly full of light. He trained at the Borough Polytechnic under the visionary David Bomberg, from whom he learnt about the conveyance of insight and emotion through the stuff of paint. It’s a form of expressionism by which the world is apprehended through the senses and given back in paint. The subject and the artist’s experience of it become one, and are then gathered into the structure of the paint to exert their effect on the sensory system of the viewer. Kossoff has built upon this powerful foundation to make art of remarkable intensity and truth. His subjects have ranged from portraits to swimming pools to the exterior of Christchurch, Spitalfields. He has also maintained an immensely fruitful dialogue with the great tradition of Western art, making paintings, drawings and prints in response to Old Masters, mostly those in the National Gallery.

The Tate mounted a major exhibition of Kossoff’s paintings in 1996, but his drawings and prints are a lesser-known quantity. A number were included in the successful small show Drawing from Painting at the National Gallery last year, but otherwise the works on paper are rarely seen. The current exhibition of Kossoff’s etchings and dry points at Art Space Gallery is thus the first solo show of the artist’s unique prints. They’re called ‘unique prints’ because they’re not editioned in the usual way: each one is subtly different. The same plate is used, but each print has been adjusted from its predecessor, principally by wiping the plate for varying strengths and absences of ink, which alters the intensities of line and tone.

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