Euan Uglow 1932-2000


Anne and Theo Crosby
Private Collection, UK 


1974, Truro, Royal Institute of Cornwall; Middlesborough, Teesside Art Gallery; Manchester, Peterloo Gallery; and Brighton, Gardner Centre Gallery, University of Sussex, Euan Uglow, 7 - 28 June; 20 July - 24 Aug.; 3 - 28 Sept.; 5 - 27 Oct. 1974, cat. no. 56

1991, London, Browse & Darby, Euan Uglow: Ideas, 1952-1991, 4 April - 4 May 1991, cat. no. 10 (illus.)

2016, London, Piano Nobile, William Coldstream | Euan Uglow: Daisies and Nudes, 22 Nov. 2016 - 14 Jan. 2017, cat. no. 17 (col. illus.)


Richard Kendall and Catherine Lampert, Euan Uglow: The Complete Paintings, 2007, Yale University Press, cat. no. 230, p. 99 (col. illus.)
William Coldstream | Euan Uglow: Daisies and Nudes, 2016, exh. cat. Piano Nobile, cat. no. 17, pp. 46-47 (col.illus.)
Euan Uglow’s Battersea studio was littered with various constructed scenes. Nudes, portraits and still lifes were all used by the artist to interrogate perception, analysing the thing seen and the act of looking. Uglow once stated: “I am not a still life painter. I am not a portrait painter. I am not a painter of nudes. I am just a painter.” Subject matter was a tool to facilitate investigation, and no traditional hierarchy of genre distracted Uglow’s penetrating gaze.

Austere and refined, the starkness and simplicity of Still Life with Honeysuckle belies the internal complexities. On the surface of the image one honeysuckle flower stands in a decorative jar on a white table against the blue walls of Uglow’s studio. But on closer inspection Uglow uses these objects to explore problems of pictorial representation. Depth and flatness are hold suspended and balanced, deliberately challenging the viewer’s reading of space. The honeysuckle seems like a pattern, echoing the decoration on its jar, and any distance between the lone stem and the wall is impossible to conceive. The jar is painted in the same creamy tone as the shelf, delineated by a border rather than any suggestion of it as a three-dimensional object, but it casts a shadow unlike the honeysuckle. And yet the purity of the unmodulated colour, the utterly smooth surface of paint, and decorative flatness is disrupted: the jar just disturbs the perfect horizontal line where shelf and wall meet. Depth is not entirely absent; space is carefully and totally structured throughout the work. Uglow takes “account of every square inch within the defined field of vision, solid and void, and treats the whole with equal favour.” (Catherine Lampert, 'Painting from Life', Hayward Annual 1979, exh. cat. Hayward Gallery (London, 1979) p.38).

Although colour was always a source of fascination for Uglow, through the 1960s it reached new vibrancy. In Still Life with Honeysuckle, he composes harmony through planes of pure luminous colour, allowing the image to take on an eye-catching quality akin to an advert or logo. Pop art's impact in Britain and its interest in branding may have a faint influence on Uglow's selection of colour here. His habit of repeatedly representing the same subject also has resonances with Pop art being made on both sides of the Atlantic during this important decade. Parallels abound between the present painting and the work of Joe Tilson or Peter Blake as well as Andy Warhol. But Uglow has different concerns. Where Pop artists revel in their ability to reproduce and manipulate an image, Uglow recognises the impossibility of such stasis when painting from life. Time, change and the struggle to capture the thing seen is celebrated by the artist and as unavoidable fact of life. Austerity and control are, as ever in Uglow's still lifes, features of this painting but they coexist with a joyous explosion of colour presenting Uglow at his most uplifting.