Catalogue note for ‘Thinking Eye’ exhibition

In the sixties the phrase was: Do your own thing. Of all the brilliant generation of artists who emerged in Britain at the time, Paul Huxley was the one most surely to put the idea into practice. I was going to say ‘ruthlessly’, but though his career has been marked throughout by a quiet determination to go his own way, ruthlessness is hardly a quality one would associate with this refined and in certain ways secretive painter. In the epoch-making 1964 exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery New Generation, which effectively launched David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield and Allen Jones on the waiting world, figurative art, of a more or less Pop Art persuasion, grabbed most of the attention. But Paul Huxley was noted there, not by doing anything showy in itself, but by painting in his own typical abstract style, and standing out simply by contrast.

The following year he went to America, and lived in New York for two years. It must have been a natural move at the time, for his art already seemed in certain ways to have more in common with some of the latest developments of the Abstract Expressionists than with anything very currently British. He was already painting somewhat in the manner of the Colour Field Painters, in that his paintings were based on a field of strong but light colour, in ( or more generally on ) which floated shapes in vividly contrasting colours. The shapes were sometimes irregular, but more frequently geometrical and hard-edged. There was in any case nothing hazy about them: rather than mere shapes they were definitely things, objects with their own physical presence, even if one did not quite recognise what they were.

Back in Britain, he continued to develop along his own independent lines, becoming more exclusively geometrical and even at times including the bare outlines of objects one did recognise, though reduced to the simplest possible formula, so that one could never be too sure. This touch of whimsy made him seem after all more British than anything else. Today he is still the painter he always was, developed from but consistent with his self of thirty years ago. As a teacher he has become a leader, but he is still the cat that walks by himself.

© John Russell Taylor 1996