Every picture is in some way a portrait of the artist. Scale, composition, drawing, tonality, colour, each choice says something of which the artist himself may be unaware, more evident perhaps to the viewer than to the artist. As the French say with admirable concision “le style c’est l’homme”. I was reminded of this a few years ago when I shared a show of prints with John Duffin and David Carpanini.
The three of us had much in common. We had all grown up in industrial areas which had passed their glory days, South Wales, The West Midlands and the North West, we all worked in black and white, we all loved etching, each of us drew on images from our home environment whether from direct observation or from memory or imagination.
But here the similarities end and something new, a non aesthetic factor, emerges. Where David and I shared a certain nostalgia or even melancholy, John’s pictures showed optimism and assertiveness. No place for doubt or allusions. Anyone who knew John would recognise the bounce in his step. Look at those strong lines, dramatic tones and sweeping perspectives and note his vigorous cross hatching. Bang bang bang! This man could be a riveter, a metal basher of the old school. Lucky man.
These paintings and etchings are celebrations of the city, skirmishes between light and dark. The light is not overwhelmed by the darkness although it may be a close run thing. When so many doubts about the viability of our way of living are expressed from so many angles, John Duffin’s work is an unperturbed reminder of creativity and confidence in the city.
Peter Freeth RA RE
London October 2016
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