This exhibition is a celebration of Robyn Denny's work from the 1960s, an especially significant period in the extensive career of an artist who played a key role in the evolution of British abstraction whilst mainly looking to America for inspiration.
Robyn Denny (1930-2014) was one of an internationally acclaimed group who began to transform British art in the late 1950s and which went on to receive global acclaim in the 60s and 70s. Denny's large-scale, colourful abstract paintings embody the cool, modernising mood we associate with the 1960s, yet some of his work can also have a more sombre and enigmatic presence, which conversely makes some of the paintings seem utterly timeless. 'No painting should reveal all it has to say as a kind of instant impact,' Denny told an interviewer in 1964. 'Abstract painting... should be as diverse and complex and strange and unaccountable, and unnameable as an experience, as any painting of consequence has been in the past.' As Martin Holman points out in his text accompanying the exhibition at Newlyn Art Gallery in 2017, Denny pursued that main objective throughout his career.
After National Service, Denny studied at St Martin's and latterly at the Royal College of Art. Soon after his graduation in 1957, he enjoyed considerable success alongside his contemporaries Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Peter Blake and David Hockney who reacted against the mainstream, landscape painting of the preceding generation. Denny took part in Documenta III in 1964 and, in 1966, he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale alongside Anthony Caro, Bernard Cohen, Harold Cohen and Richard Smith. In 1973, he was the youngest artist to receive a retrospective at Tate. Denny was inspired by Abstract Expressionism as well as American films, popular culture and urban modernity; it is therefore of little surprise that he eventually moved to the States in the 1980s. His work is in major public collections around the world including: Art Institute of Chicago; Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Australia, Sydney; Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Yale Centre for British Art, as well as the Arts Council England; Government Art Collection; Tate; The British Council; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Museum of Wales.