Varvara Roza Galleries in collaboration with The Blender Gallery has announced a major solo exhibition by Winston Branch titled “The Sweet Scent of Magnolia”. The exhibition runs from 21 November to 19 December at, 8 Duke Street, St. James’s, London.
Winston Branch’s new body of work consists of large-scale canvases painted in his London studio during a prolific period in 2023. Simultaneously, Sotheby’s is presenting Winston Branch’s ‘Journey Into Light’ at their New Bond Street galleries. This takes place between 17 November and 15 December 2023.
Winston Branch’s preoccupation as an artist has been the re-examination of finding a more palatable means of expression. The excitement with which his paintings have developed over the years has always been to explore the magic of paint: The way a total amorphous substance is transformed into an illusionary subject. It is the sensuality of the pigment of the paint that has captivated his inner voice.
In his early development, Monet’s “Water Lilies” always captured an extreme use of light, exploring the textural surface on the canvas. He has not emulated these paintings but has been buried deep in his subconscious and has tried to postulate that radiance in light and feeling. For him, painting can only work on a purely intuitive instinct: gut feeling. Though the intellectual process is the justification of the act, in his study of “Nude in an Interior”, painted in 1967, he has tried to orchestrate the figurative image and, at the same time, convey a more excellent sensuous approach to painting. As he has moved on, absorbing the influences of Matisse and Nicolas de Stael and widening a greater horizon, the formation of his perception has embraced the non-representational aspect of painting much more. Painting, for him, has always been a grand gesture, and as he has found his identity as an artist, it was inevitable that this would lead to pure abstraction. It is cutting at the edge of the bone of the human experience as the faculty of imagination is the highest order of the manifestation of one’s soul.
“Painting for me is to take an amorphous substance like paint and turn it into an illusionary image, evoking the sensuality of feeling. Colour is light, and through colour, I express my humanity.” Winston Branch
At 76, Branch shows no signs of slowing down and remains as dedicated as ever to his craft. Recent exhibitions include the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2023, “Jasmines Blowing in the Wind” at Simon Lee Gallery’ Fragments of Light’ at Cedric Bardawill in 2023, and a group exhibition at The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, in 2022.
In 2018, the Tate Collection acquired ‘Zachary II (1982), a stunning abstract work with a powdery blue and sandy pink palette, which the Tate compared to a Monet. ‘Zachary II’ is part of a series of eight paintings Branch made when he was living in London in the early 1980s, another of which, ‘The Magic is in You’ (1982-84), was sold in 20th/21st Century London Evening Sale at Christie’s on 13 October 2023 for £240.000.00, more than twice its estimate. Branch’s abstract paintings are noted for their mesmerizing and highly emotive surfaces, conjured from the interplay of bright colours that form an entangled web of rich pigment characterized as ‘bewitching canvases’, as his abstract paintings have a bewitching intensity drawn from the subconscious.
He begins with an emotion and paints as many canvases as it takes until that feeling is fulfilled. He melted Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ into a glorious, shimmering colour that evoked unfathomable depths. He conveyed the rhythms of nature in thickly layered patches of powdery acrylic.
Tate’s acquisition cemented Branch’s legacy, and record sales of his paintings at auction reinforce the significance of his contribution to the art historical canon. Branch, After living and working in London, Rome, Berlin, California, the Caribbean and New York, where he developed a fluid, confident style of abstraction, Branch resettled in London, from where he states, ‘I want to write my name on the ledger of British culture’. He recounts a meeting with former Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota at a party when: ‘I told him it was my time, and he agreed.
“I don’t know what the paint will do; that’s the magic, that’s dance. I took the paint and put it down on the canvas. I move the paint with large gestures. These are my preoccupations. When I come to do what I do. I don’t think about anybody. I think about what I’m doing. It combines years of discovering myself, reinventing myself, and not trying to be repetitious. Each painting must be fresh. The whole thing is about trying to have clarity and fluidity.” Winston Branch
Art Critic Peter Selz notes: “Winston Branch … paintings suggest gardens, landscapes and seascapes, gardens in full bloom, the sky and clouds, the sea and its waves. They are the 21st-century version of the great 19th-century Romantic painters. Caspar David Frederick and Eugene Delacroix. (His) horizontal canvases evoke the sense of a vast expanse. Done with a sweeping brush, they are the works of a daring colourist whose brilliant hues achieve true iridescence. ”
Art Critic Carlos Diaz Sosa notes: “Branch paints abstract canvases in cool, cloudy colours that have a quality which allows the viewer to explore the depths of the mind. Branch uses paint as a symbol, a purely aesthetic language, and an illustration of spirit. ”
Winston Branch is a prominent British artist originally from Saint Lucia. He was born in Castries, Saint Lucia, where he attended a Catholic school. In the 1960s, at 12, he was sent to London, where he studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts UCL. Branch received a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Berlin Artist programme in Berlin (DAAD), a fellowship in Belize from the Organization of American States and was an Artist in Residence at Fisk University in Tennessee. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Greenwich, London.
He has exhibited his work consistently since the 1960s worldwide, including at the Oakland Museum of California, the Alliance Francaise de San Francisco, the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum, the 11th and 23rd São Paulo Art Biennial, Museo de Arte Moderno in São Paulo, the 4th Bienal de Pincture de Cuenca, Modern Art Museum (Cuenca, Ecuador) and the Biennale de Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 2010, he fell ill while at San Francisco International Airport waiting for a flight to exhibit work and give a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was cared for at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, where following his recovery he held an exhibition entitled A Gift of Life (1 May–24 June 2011). Most recently, he was one of the artists featured prominently in No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960– 1990 (July 2015–January 2016) at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery, with three of his paintings hung at the entrance of the exhibition. One of the works shown was his painting West Indian — “a marked exception” to the non-figurative style now more typical of Branch — on loan from Rugby Borough Council.’
Works by Winston Branch are represented in the permanent collections of Tate Britain, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, The Museum of Modern Art in São Paolo, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The Legion of Honour de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA, The St Louis Museum of Art in Missouri, The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA, The Hamburger Kunsthalle Museum in Hamburg, The University of California at Berkeley, The Berkeley Art Museum The Contemporary Art Society, UK, Her Britannic Majesty Military Government (Berlin, DE).
Winston Branch THE SWEET SCENT OF MAGNOLIA November 21st to December 19th, 2023 Varvara Roza Galleries, Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street St. James’s, London SW1Y 6BN