I took an evening ride up a canyon ridge — to where the stars hang bright like pinholes and Santa Monica winks in the bowl. The new moon’s crescent cups a smile. We’re in the main part of a sprawling fifties rancher. My host, Rob, says, motioning toward a large oil painting, “Here’s what I want to show you. For my whole life this hung in my mother’s house in Michigan.” It’s a minimalist work of delicate, saturated dabs in golden ochre and grey — a designy, wood block-inspired meditation reminiscent of a seascape. The painting holds its own in an eclectic room of thoughtfully gathered objects and art. “I have always loved this painting,” Rob says, putting his arm around his wife, cat curled at his ankles. Kids grown, business thriving, world travelled –they spark and look into each other’s smiles. I soak it in and shuffle closer to the painting.
Artist Edward Middleditch was born in Chelmsford, Essex in 1923 and grew up in Nottingham before enrolling in the Royal College of Art. As a painter, draughtsman and printmaker in the 1950s he associated with a group called “The Kitchen Sink” — a crew of social realists who were part of a wider British art and film movement that told the stories of ordinary life. Middleditch drew from nature and leaned into minimalism and the colour field. He described grass and water, painted the heaviness of a hill, drew feathers, petals and reflections. He shifted into abstraction, revelling in patterns, movement and light effects. He found inspiration in textiles and the rippled currents of aerial landscapes. Less literal than the work of the other Kitchen Sink painters Jack Smith, John Bratby and Derrick Greaves, Middleditch could offer a realism tenderly extracted from the whispers of the natural world. These paintings are the quiet answer to the clutter of daily life.
Only recently did Rob receive his mother’s Middleditch in Los Angeles. And after a little research Rob took a trip to London — to the Tate to see more. A few days later he visited the gallery in Soho that still represents Middleditch’s work and chose another to bring back to California. “I’ve spent a lifetime with this artist,” he said. “It’s wonderful to discover him all over again.”
PS: “Ars longa, vita brevis” “Art is long, life is short.” (Hippocrates)
Esoterica: The objects of childhood serve as our original attachment to the world. Artists know that it goes deeper than the scene on the wall. Making art for one lifetime in service to the continuity and discoveries of future generations “ain’t a bad gig.” “Collectors,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “are happy people.” With the right nurturing, it’s a fine inheritance.
They Call it Civilization
experimental collage 10 x 10 inches
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