George, the landscape painter of thick, sumptuous, glowing paint, brings the same intense energy, keen observation and lightness of touch to his joyous flower paintings.
“I always take a five-litre tin of Stokes Titanium white, two and a half of Bright Red, two and a half of Chrome Lemon and the same of Spectrum Ultramarine..” This was George Rowlett in 2004 telling John Lessore about the nuts and bolts of his painting. That interview gave a refreshing, insider’s view of an artist who is so devoted to his work that he rises at 5am and paints every day.
Whether East Kent landscapes, the River Thames, the Alps, his telling self portraits – or as here, of flowers – George Rowlett’s images are passionate responses to the ever-changing quality of light. Painting with brushes made him too facile, he says, so now he uses broad palette knives, spatulas and his fingers, forcing himself to look, think, and look again before plastering the surface with impasto. When in London, he likes to paint the Thames, attracted “by the river’s” mythologies, its smells, its decay and regeneration”.
George Rowlett’s flower paintings are often of specific species. They are always seen close to, either in vases or rioting in his garden – Honeymoon & Lavon lilies, Lilium Minorca, Geranium Psylostemon, Rose ‘Danse du Feu’, rose pink Perpetue, the opium poppies and Jerusalem Sage. There are hyacinths, hydrangeas, daffodils, tulips, and recently, Two Pots of January Flowers.
With some of his paintings, the surfaces are so thick and chaotic that you have to stand back in order to ‘get’ what they are. That’s when you see the structure under the skin.
Ties of affection bring the images to life in another way: the series Marion’s Sweet Peas refers to his wife and his 19th century walled garden. Being up close and personal to his subjects has other advantages: happy accidents can change everything, as in the thrush which arrived at the last minute in Lilies Honeymoon & Lavon, Young Thrush on a Bench, Walmer (2009), and the butterfly which tipped the balance for Lilium Minorca, Nine Opium Poppies and Meadow Brown (2010). George Rowlett’s devotion to four simple colours has relented only once, when he introduced Alizarin Crimson to honour his father-in-law. He was “a joyous person… [and] it was in his spirit”. It could be his own epitaph.
Caroline Juler, art critic & Wales correspondent for Galleries magazine
1941Born Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland
1960-62Grimsby School of Art
1962-65Camberwell School of Art
1965-68The Royal Academy School
RECENT SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2010Glory of the Garden, Art Space Gallery, London. Landscape & Still Life Paintings, Sidney Cooper Gallery. Canterbury Christ Church University
2009East Kent, The River Thames and Wast Water, Art Space Gallery, London
2007Ruskin Revisited: George Rowlett at Chamonix and Coniston, Art Space Gallery, London. Touring: The Ruskin Library, Lancaster University; Brantwood, Coniston
2006Close Up, Art Space Gallery, London. George Rowlett in Wales, The Art Shop, Abergavenny
RECENT MIXED EXHIBITIONS
2009Royal Academy Summer Exhibition; also included in: 1977, 80 86, 88, 89 90, 91, 96, 97, 98, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09 exhibitions
2008Winter Journey, Art Space Gallery, London
2006Critic’s Choice, The Art Shop, Abergavenny
2004The Divine Comedy, Art Space Gallery, London
George Rowlett lives and works in London and Walmer. He has had regular solo shows with Michael Richardson, Art Space Gallery, London for the last 30 years. For a more extensive biography please visit our website. All work can be viewed online.