Anthony Frost

Work

Recent Exhibition: Inheritance of Colour (24 May – 23 June 2018)

Bio

1951 Born St Ives, Cornwall

1970 – 73

Cardiff College of Art (BA Honours, Fine Art)

COLLECTIONS

Warwick University

Nulfield Trust

John Moores

Contemporary Art Society

Cornwall County Council

Truro Museum and Galleries

Kasser Foundation, New York

Devon County Council

Contemporary Irish Art Society

Limerick Art Gallery and Museum, Ireland

Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

Lloyds T.S.B. London

Kings College, Cambridge

Addenbrooks Hospital, Cambridge

The Bank of America, London

E-People, Milton Keynes

Rotary Watches Ltd

Standard Life

QBE International Insurance

Williams Energy, London

Otter Gallery, University of Chichester Collection

New Art Gallery, Walsall ( Permanent Collection)

EXHIBITIONS

1975

Envelope Show, JPL Fine Arts, London

1976

‘Deck of Cards’, JPL Fine Arts, London

1977

‘Dartist’ Show, Newlyn Art Gallery

1977 – 78

‘Four Young Artists’, Penwith Gallery, St Ives

1978

John Moores, Liverpool

1979

Compass Gallery, Glasgow

1980

‘Three Degrees of Frost’ (Terry, Anthony & Adrian), Prescote Gallery, Banbury

‘Public Hanging’, Penwith Gallery, St Ives

1981

Compass Gallery, Glasgow

1982

Sainsbury’s ‘Images for Today’ Compass Gallery, Glasgow

1983

‘Small is Beautiful’, Angela Flowers, London

Wet Paint, Four Man, Festival Gallery, Bath

‘Flower Pot Art’, Bath Art Fair and Christopher Hull Gallery, London

‘A View from my Window’, Angela Flowers Gallery, London

1987

‘Four Abstract Artists’, Angela Flowers Gallery, London

‘The Daybrook’, Smiths Gallery, London

1988

Invited Artist. ‘The London Group’, Royal Collage of Art, London

1988 – 89

‘Small Show’, Flowers East, London

1989

A Century of Art in Cornwall, Truro Museum & Art Gallery

1990

Abstract ’90, Cleveland Bridge Gallery, Bath

South West Touring Exhibition, Plymouth – Prize – Winner

Commission: The Fall ‘Extricate’ – Album & 2 Singles covers, T-shirt & backdrop

1990 – 91

Christmas Exhibition, Austin Desmond, Exeter

1991

‘Colour Senses’, Three Abstract Painters, Spacex, Exeter

‘Young St Ives Painters’, Hall Gallery, Sterts Centre, Liskeard

1991 – 92

‘Small is Beautiful’ – Part 9 Abstract, Flowers East, London

Cornish Artists, Gordon Hepworth Gallery, Exeter

1992

Artists from Cornwall, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

Summer Show, Curwen Gallery, London

Three Man: Andrew Lanyon, Alfred Wallis, Anthony Frost, Gordon Hepworth Gallery, London

1993

Small is Beautiful ‘Homages’, Flowers East, London

1994

‘Beyond the Edge’, Paintings & Sculpture from Cornwall, Unit 10, Exeter Touring

Affordable Abstract Art, Belgrave Gallery, London

Contemporary Printworks, Spacex, Exeter

‘Small is Beautiful XII’, Angela Flowers Gallery, London

The Little Picture Show, Rainyday Gallery, Penzance

6” x 6” Small Artworks, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea (& London/Germany)

1995

‘Beyond the Edge’, Paintings & Sculpture from Cornwall, Usher Gallery, Lincoln

‘The Edge of Beyond’

1995 – 96

Anna Bornholt Gallery – Mixed Shows

1999

Flowers West, Santa Monica, America

2000 – 01

Eden Project, Cornwall

2003

‘Frost/Bourne/Tyler’, Maltby Contemporary Art, Winchester

2004

‘Buon Natale’, Advanced Graphics, London

2005

Islington Art Fair, Beaux Arts, London

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

2006

Islington Art Fair, Beaux Arts, London

Irving/Frost/Canning Monoprints, Advanced Graphics, London

‘Paintwork, The Fall’, Praxis Hagen Gallery, Berlin

‘London Calling’, Advanced Graphics, The Original Print Gallery, Dublin

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

2007

Art Now Cornwall, Tate St Ives

Anthony Frost & Essex Tyler, Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

‘One over One – Recent Mono Prints’, Advanced Graphics, London

‘Small is Beautiful’, Flowers Central, London

2008

‘The Painted Path’ (including John Hoyland and Basil Beattie), Hillsboro Fine Art Gallery, Dublin

‘New Publications’, Advanced Graphics, London

‘Crossing Over’, Beaux Arts, Bath

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

‘Small is Beautiful’, Flowers East, London

‘The Colour Show’ (including Maurice Cockrill, Luke Frost, Rose Hilton,

Mali Morris and Geoffrey Rigden), Hilton Young Gallery, Penzance

2009

Collectors Prints, Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames

Bert Irvin R.A. and Anthony Frost (Rare and Unique Prints) Gallagher and Turner Gallery, Newcastle

Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (Newlyn Society of Artists)

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

‘Summer Show Part I’, The Stoneman Gallery, Penzance

‘Paintwork #3 The Fall’, Gallery Borchardt, Hamburg

‘Painted Quartets’, Cheltenham Music Festival

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

Mixed Exhibition, Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames

Islington Art Fair, Beaux Arts, London

2010

Sound and Vision’ ‘Tate Shots’, Tate Modern, London

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

‘Small is Beautiful’, XXVIII Flowers, London

‘Spoilt for Choice’, King’s Place Gallery, London

2011

Llowes Court Gallery, Hay-on-Wye Festival, Bob Devereux and Anthony Frost

Islington Art Fair, Beaux Arts, London

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

‘8 Artists from Cornwall’, Eton Drawing Schools

2012

Islington Art Fair, Beaux Arts, London

‘Summer Exhibition’, Beaux Arts, London

Llowes Court Gallery, Hay-on-Wye Festival, Bob Devereux and Anthony Frost

The Armoury, Advanced Graphics, New York

2013

Islington Art Fair, Beaux Arts, London

20 Years in Cork Street, Beaux Arts

London Summer Show, Belgrave Gallery, St Ives

D.T.R. Modern, New York

‘The Fall Artists’ Christiana Gallery, Copenhagen

Royal Academy Summer Show, London

2014

Colour Exhibition, Beaux Arts, London

Summer Show, Beaux Arts London

” detail ” Arts Council & University Of Lincoln } H-Project Space, Bangkok } Transition Gallery, London } The Usher Gallery, Lincoln } Summer Show ,Belgrave Gallery ,St Ives Summer Show, Penwith Gallery, St Ives “Small Is Beautiful” Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London

2015

Modern British Contemporary, Beaux Arts, London

‘St Ives ‘ New Art Gallery, Walsall

2016

Works on Paper, Royal Academy, London

‘Kith & Kin’ Falmouth Art Gallery, Nicholsons/ Lanyons/ Hiltons & Frosts

‘Full Colour ‘ Heritage Courtyard Studios, Wells Summer Show, Belgrave Gallery

St Ives Summer Show, Beaux Arts, London

Craigie Aitchison & Anthony Frost, Screen prints & Monotypes, Gallagher and Turner, Newcastle Upon Tyne

New Mono Prints, Advanced Graphics, New York.

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1979

Newlyn Art Gallery

1981

Mandeer Gallery, London

1982

‘Works on Paper’, Canterbury University Gallery

1983

‘Dangerous Diamonds’, Posterngate Gallery, Hull, Lincs & Humberside (touring)

1986

Anthony Frost ‘On Colour’, Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn Orion

1987

‘Whiff of Magic’ New Paintings, Wolf at the Door Gallery, Penzance

1989

New Paintings, The Salthouse Gallery, St Ives

1991

Monotypes & Related Paintings, Gordon Hepworth Gallery, Exeter

Paintings and Monotypes, Royal Cornwall Museum Galleries, Truro

1993

Rainyday Gallery, Penzance

1994

Bodily Gallery, Cambridge

1995

Gordon Hepworth Gallery, Exeter

Jersey Arts Centre

1996

‘Viva Blues’, Newlyn Art Gallery, Touring show

Belgrave Gallery, London

‘Viva Blues’ Midland Arts Centre (MAC), Birmingham

1997

‘Viva Blues’, Darlington Arts Centre

Kings University Arts Centre Gallery, Cambridge

‘Viva Blues’ (The remix – The Unofficial Tour), The Belgrave Gallery, London

‘Viva Blues’ (First Touch of Frost – The Unofficial Tour), The Forefront Gallery

1998

‘Viva Blues’, Mid Penine Gallery, Burnley

Maymie White Contemporary Art, London

Kings University Arts Centre Gallery, Cambridge

1999

The Corporate Connoisseurs, London

Jersey Arts Centre, Jersey

2000

Kings College, Cambridge

2001

‘The Sound of Colour’, Hillsboro Fine Art, Dublin

‘The Space I’m In’, The Corporate Connoisseurs London

‘Walking into Red’, Advanced Graphics, London

2002

The Original Print Gallery, Dublin

2003

‘Big Colour in Space’ Space, Penzance

2004

‘Zig Zag Wanderer’, New Work, The Somerville Gallery, Plymouth

2005

The Otter Gallery, Chichester University

‘Lunar Notes – Neon Dreams’, Advanced Graphics, London

2007

‘Surface Noise’, Beaux Arts, London

‘Surface Noise: The Prints’, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

‘New Monoprints & Recent Editions’, Advanced Graphics, London

2009

‘The Colour of Sound’, Beaux Arts, London

Arundel Festival Exhibition, Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel

‘Printhead’, New Editions and new mono prints, Advanced Graphics, London

2010

‘Back to Back’, New Prints, Brook Gallery, Budleigh Salterton

2011

‘Magnetic Fields’, Beaux Arts, London

’Ohio Buzz’, Advanced Graphics, London

’Sublime Frequencies’, Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel

2013

‘Sun – Zoom – Spark’, Beaux Arts, London

‘Zoomstar’, The Belgrave Gallery,St Ives

2014

‘Painting Smoke ‘, Zimmer Stewart Gallery,  Arundel

‘Sound City’, New Mono Prints, Advanced Graphics London

2016

‘Beyond Cool’ , Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel

‘Luminous Tracks’, Beaux Arts, London

AWARDS

2009

Honorary Degree of Master of the University in Recognition of Services to the Arts (Open University)

COMMISIONS

1990

The Fall: Extricate (album and two singles’ covers, T-shirt and backdrop)

2000

Planting design (a living painting for the fodder crops exhibit) for The Eden Project

2008

The Fall: Imperial Wax Solvent (album, T-shirt and badge)

2012

The Fall (Backdrop, T-shirt and Badge)

ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

1992

Cyprus School of Art, Cyprus

Judge & Organiser, Seven Celtic Artists, Finnistere, France

1993

Montmiral School of Painting, Tarn, France

1999

Judge – JJ Fox Painting Competition, Jersey

2008

Tate Artist in Residence, Oceania, Caribbean

2011

Eton College, UK (The James McLaren Art Fund)

Essays
Steve Delaney, 2016

Anthony Frost

I’ve known Anthony since 2006 and I remember very clearly when we first met. He, his wife Linda and a couple of their friends came to see a show I was doing at the Edinburgh Festival and afterwards they hung around to say how much they’d enjoyed it. Such was their ebullience that they sort of gathered me up.

I think ‘ebullient’ is a word that sums Anthony up quite well. It seems to me that he wrings the most he can out of life and his work. I admire that.

I am sitting in the studio looking at the work for this exhibition ‘Luminous Tracks’. The first thing that strikes me is it’s more gloriously abstract. The paintings of his that I own and am more familiar with have more geometry, with wedge shapes, triangles repeat patterns. These are free and expressive. Many times this ‘freedom’ takes Anthony off the confines of the frame completely, the painting shooting out into the air. It looks as though they almost have a mind of their own. Several of the frames have had to be reinforced after the event because at the time of painting he doesn’t know where this overlap will be or will end. I get the impression from talking to him that he’s been itching for the work to leave the frame in this way for some time and it’s something he’s been experimenting with now and again in the past, though on a smaller scale than here.

He mentions a couple of times what he calls ‘The happy accident.’ ‘That piece of netting that falls onto a canvas and becomes part of it. Or an accidental splash on a canvas which stays.’

I can see that he really embraces these quirks of fate. He becomes quite animated when talking about this happenstance. He also sometimes decides a painting should be viewed the other way up or sideways on. In his own words again.

“When I was younger I always used to think, ‘That’s the top, that’s the bottom’. But now I’ll just sometimes lay it on the floor and walk round it and think, ‘Which way does it look best’.

Anthony’s sense of colour and the way they work together is what drew me to his work in the first place. It’s an incredible instinct he has. In the studio there’s a large window looking out over a view of the sea, with St Michael’s Mount almost hovering there. It occurs to me that his colour choices are influenced by this proximity to the sea. ’Subconsciously’ they probably are he tells me. “But not intentionally.”  He tends to resist that kind of association and if that ever becomes apparent he’ll often react against it.

You can’t talk about Anthony’s work without talking about music. It strikes me that music is his biggest influence.  I ask him, ’Do you ever not work with music, deliberately?’ To which he answers: “I do. I record a lot of spoken word on Radio 4 to listen to while I work. My son, Danny says, ‘You go into dad’s studio and he’s usually on his hands and knees pressing the fast forward button on one of his cassette players’.

There are about half a dozen cassette decks (remember those?) that I can see dotted about his studio. He tells me that he’s constantly recording Radio 4 and Radio 6 Music onto C120 cassettes. He has notebooks full of song titles, with – potential titles for unpainted canvasses. More often than not he’ll write all that information down on the back of the painting.

All the paintings in this exhibition have been named after a piece of music that has inspired him. Although this time unusually, the titles followed the paintings. Anthony suggests it may have been this way because he had been ill early last year and when he got back into the studio his impulse was just to ‘paint and paint’. “These paintings are more direct, more punchy“

‘When starting a painting i dont know the problems i will have to deal with until the painting is well on the go and the secret (for me) is to keep the whole thing on the boil right to the end, so the finished work has that feeling of excitement, speed and danger. I try to take all my paintings to the edge – it is voyage of discovery, full of surprises, problems, accidents ( happy accidents that I use to my advantage) and decisions, which all have to be resolved in some crazy way. I attempt with colour and marks to create my own space, rhythms, weight speed and volume.’

Anthony then goes on to say something I found particularly interesting when he was comparing his own work process with that of his dad, the late, Sir Terry Frost. ‘“It reminds me of my Dad. He used to say… he’d come into his studio in Porthmeor and lie down on his chaise longue he had. He’d lie there and wait for the painting not to be looking at him and then he’d sneak up on it. ‘Because the painting’s always trying to impose on you’”

Anthony then adds; “I try not to be contrived. I work on maybe four canvasses at a time. Put the music on, work in a sort of trance-like way. Enjoying the music. Not thinking about the paint”.

This is something I recognize in the way that I work too. Often squinting at the computer out of the corner of my eye from the other side of the room for a big chunk of the day before springing up and surprising both myself and the machine by actually thumping some words out on its keys. It’s very interesting to me that there are these similarities. Perhaps Anthony enjoys the fact that there’s no ‘manual’ for what he does. As I do.

These unfettered, wonderfully abstract paintings really and simply connect with the viewer. You can lose yourself standing there looking at them. I can’t think of anything else I’d want from a painting.

The colours, the textures, the shapes, the intricacy, the thoughtfulness, the originality, the music, the audio, the intent, the conviction, the guts, the happenstance and the sheer, sheer ebullience all adds up to Anthony Frost and therefore the paintings here in this exhibition.

Steve Delaney, Comedian and actor aka Count Arthur Strong

Stewart Lee, 2013

Sun Zoom Spark by Stewart Lee

Sun Zoom Spark takes its title from a song by Anthony Frost’s beloved Captain Beefheart, the Mojave desert avant-blues auteur and abstract neo-primitivist who died in 2010.  Much has been written already of the importance of music in Frost’s work. Perhaps, on arriving in Cornwall, critics can’t help but expect artists to cite the light and the landscape as their major muses, so it’s counter-intuitive to find Frost turning away, perhaps quite deliberately, from the view out over the sea from his Penzance studio window, to surfaces littered with scratched CDs, and a spattered radio playing 6 Music’s tasteful mix of hipster art rock all day. From this endless audio slipstream he snatches snappy titles for the works the sounds inform. “I have a notebook of titles for paintings, things I hear on the radio, snippets of phrases. Look. Beautiful burnout. Future babble. Autotune. This phrase ‘desert wolf growl’ was in a review of a solo album by Drumbo from Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. I paint the picture and then fit the title to it. But this exhibition was different because I knew the paintings were going to be titled after Captain Beefheart songs. I only titled them last week. Strictly Personal. Bat Chain Puller. Look. That looks like a bat chain puller, doesn’t it. And you can see why that one is Shiny Beast.”

Coming of age just at the right time to absorb the last fading rays of psychedelia and the first gluey fumes of punk, to this day Frost still knows much more about mysterious contemporary music genres like dubstep, happy hardcore, and grime than a man in his early sixties might reasonably be expected to. And it seems to me that Frost creates like a free jazz improviser, painting himself into unknown corners and then trying to extemporise his way out of them. He chooses various canvases without apparent thought, buying “every size of stretched canvas that the company makes because I thought the different shapes of the canvas would dictate what I produced. The use of different materials gets more and more prominent as I’m getting older.”

Frost’s methods echo John Cage’s experiments with unpredictability, and the formal rules by which free improvising musicians engage with the unfamiliar and the unexpected. I once saw the saxophonist Evan Parker duet brilliantly with a leak in a Cheltenham theatre roof, that dripped into an unhelpfully sonorous tin bucket, an event I’m sure Frost would relate to. He goes on, “I use a lot of physical objects, and work with different materials to see what happens, to see what they present. This time I worked my way through all the different canvases, with different materials – windsurf sails, fishing nets and such like – stuck down on them at random. I try to collage over the whole thing with all this beach stuff in a non-thinking way, to try and come to it as if it’s unfamiliar each time, so that when I come to paint over it I have to make sense of something I don’t understand. I put it all on a stretcher without thinking and then it’s a case of bringing it all together. Basically I collage and then I fill in and then I have to make something magical out of it. I discover things like drips, bleeds, dots, depressions, and I have to paint with them.  That green bit there wasn’t what I wanted,” he says, gesturing at a piece, “but it was what happened.  Accidents will happen. Obviously, I’ve learned to capitalise on them, but even so I don’t want them to be contrived.”

The Fluxus artist Emmett Williams coined the phrase “the topography of chance” to describe a catalogue of objects left on the desk of his friend Daniel Spoerri, and it’s too good a phrase not to invoke in relation to the unplanned landscapes Frost cajoles into being as underlay for his finished pieces.  But two things strike me about Frost’s explanation of his methods. Firstly, he denies the pull of the local landscape, and of specifically Cornish influences, in favour of non-stop diet of pre and post punk noise, perhaps indicating an attempt to escape the shadow of The St Ives School. But his use of nautical detritus nevertheless serves, inadvertently, to give the pieces a specific geographical flavor. Those post-war painters are every bit as persuasive as the Godfather’s mobsters, of whom Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” Despite his best efforts, Frost’s ended up painting over sails and netting and beach junk, all of which is very Cornish. “Yeah,” he agrees, “but if I was in London I’d use whatever was lying about. But I am in Cornwall, so I just respond to the materials around me. Sails, rigging, windsurfing stuff. I’m like a beachcomber making use of what I’ve found.”

Secondly, though Frost appears to be contriving strategies to escape from himself, to paint and create almost subconsciously and automatically, isn’t this ultimately a doomed exercise? “Well, you can’t escape the fact that you’ve painted before, you can’t escape that,” he admits, “but I don’t want to. The bottom line is you can’t get away from the experience, the knowledge, the bit you use although you also try to suppress it. I want it to be almost free form but it can’t be because I can’t help the fact that it’s me doing it. But I’m always trying not to make something that is not strictly representational but something that is honest, real and truthful. This refers back to someone like Mark E Smith, from The Fall, because no matter what comes up in the world he is always going to make something that is real, not let himself off the hook. He is always the real thing.”

Tellingly, the last strand of Frost’s current creative splurge has a personal flavor. “The last thing I did before this exhibition was I ordered every paint that Golden Acrylic make, and I inherited my dad’s paints too, so I got all these colours I would normally not use. Like these grays….” Frost’s father was Terry Frost, one of the key players in the Cornish art scene, who died in 2003.  He is amongst a number of artists whose influence is currently being reassessed in the Tate St Ives’ exhibition, The Far And The Near, which contextualises The St Ives School alongside De Kooning, Bonnard, and Matisse,  showing how the ‘50s St Ives artists now have international standing.  If I were a dramatist staging Anthony Frost’s life, I’d use the scene where he finally uses his late father’s paints as a perhaps rather heavy handed way of showing someone coming to terms with their history. As we drive over the moors, having viewed the Tate exhibition, listening to a new CD reissue of Beefheart’s Bat Chain Puller, I ask Frost if he feels like he’s part of a tradition.

“My thing with my father was he was always referring to nature and landscape then he’d go all Russian constructivist, repeating images, and then there’d be a sun or a moon bursting out over the sea. But I wanted to be totally abstract. I wanted to be different to my dad, totally abstract, and anything that seemed recognizable I’d just paint it out.”  “But your paintings do communicate unambiguous feelings,” I suggest, “happiness, and positivity, so you’ve not avoided definite statements. And that painting, Tinned Teardrop, to me it’s a landscape.” “I suppose.”, Frost concedes, “I can see it’s almost an aerial view, from every angle going. That’s another thing I wouldn’t have done in the old days, turn all of the paintings around while I’m doing them. If its better upside down I’ll turn it round and paint it another way. If it helps me, I’m not bothered now.”

I’ve walked the landscape of the Penwith Peninsula many times, following old trails over open ground, between burial chambers, and stone circles and industrial archaeological remains. Driving through it now with Frost, past his cottage on the North Atlantic Coast, it takes on a different hue, as he points at the Zennor hilltop where Bryan Wynter set off explosives on Bonfire night, or the Gunard’s Head pub where his father’s artist friends played local farmers at cricket, or the Botallack cottage where Roger Hilton painted through the night. Time collapses a little bit. And then the influence of a morning staring at Frost’s canvases kicks in, and I feel the fuzzy visual afterbuzz you sometimes get off a heavy dose of abstracts, and momentarily I’m above the landscape even as we pass through it at ground level, looking down as swathes of purple and green and brown knot themselves around rocky prehistoric outcrops and the pitted depressions of old mine workings, seeking to make the best of the hand they’ve been dealt.

Stewart Lee, writer/clown

Mike Von Joel, 2011

Anthony Frost: Magnetic Fields

At 59 years old, Anthony Frost is now what the art world terms a ‘mid-generation’ artist. This has a number of meanings but, generally, it refers to a painter who has an extensive body of readily identifiable work to their name and who is in the process of re-examining themselves – whilst simultaneously being reassessed by the critics. It can be either a liberating and stimulating experience or, perversely, a cause for self doubt and stasis.

In the case of Anthony Frost, an evolved maturity and felicity has engendered a body of fresh and confident work; developing existing, well reprised themes to signal a new departure into more lyrical realms of colour and meaning.

Frost has enjoyed two key advantages in his career as a painter. The first, unavoidable and something he has consciously fire-walled himself against, was being born amidst art world ‘royalty’ in the guise of the post-war St. Ives collective of Modern British artists. As the son of Terry Frost (later Sir Terry) Anthony’s formative years were influenced by a close association with key players like Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Bryan Winter… and the long shadow of Ben Nicholson.

The second, and perhaps strangely more poignant, was participation in, and the benefit of, a unique period in English art school education. With the demise of the old National Diploma in Design (NDD) in 1963, a new ‘degree equivalent’ Diploma in Art & Design (DipAD) caused a total revolution in the structure and potential of art school teaching. Between 1967 and 1973, Frost enjoyed an extended 3 year Foundation Course at Banbury (‘right next to Banbury Cross’) and then another 3 years of DipAD studies at Cardiff. It is nearly impossible to find an art student who lived through this extraordinary and unorthodox period in British art tuition (brought abruptly to an end with the advent of the BA degree in 1974) who doesn’t praise the spiritual, intellectual and creative freedom it delivered.

Once removed from the all enveloping atmosphere of West Cornwall, Frost was able to configure his own language and the means to express it in paint – and at the same time declare his independence from the elemental forces at work in his childhood environment.

Hitherto, much has been made of Anthony’s determination to create a totally abstract work (even the term abstract image would likely indicate a contrary meaning). His comment to writer Mike Venning, quoting American minimalist Donald Judd, that: ‘representation is a kind of noise that gets in the way…’ is much repeated in reviews of his painting – as is his penchant for listening to cutting edge, new generation music while he works (‘…music is almightily important to me, music is the ultimate art form and I always talk about it in interviews – but, of course, they never report me as listening to Radio 4 as well!’). Indeed, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure (to people in their 50s) music and musicians, although his declared favourites are rather more accessible: cult band The Fall – and Captain Beefheart (aka the painter, Don van Vliet).

In fact, it is impossible to discuss Frost’s work without touching on the omnipresence of music in his life. He has been quoted as saying he is ‘trying to paint sound’, although this is innocently misleading. There is absolutely no element of synesthesia in his modus operandi (that is, a neurological aberration whereby musical notes are experienced with a corresponding, fixed colour value). More likely, it refers to Frost’s core response to the attitude, energy and restrained aggression in modern music that stimulates his subconscious whilst actively engaged in painting. Nevertheless, his connection with contemporary soundsmiths is real: The Fall have selected Frost’s paintings to illustrate their CD covers and he has socialised with the musicians, even the notoriously acerbic Mark E. Smith is a fan.

Likewise, Frost’s intricate naming system for his completed paintings – his titles are almost all song titles, or lines from lyrics gleaned from the aforementioned music genres – have come under scrutiny. ­

Surely a totally abstract work would befit a connotation-free basic number, or date, identification?  ‘I want my exhibitions to be like an album – it’s important that I have a title to the show – and the pictures themselves become the tracks on that album,’ he says, ‘but most of the picture titles don’t actually conjure up images… although, they might provide subconscious clues’. Nevertheless, the naming of a piece is important to Frost, a process he readily describes as ‘exciting’ and each painting is carefully annotated with the title and the source of that title – whether his own or derived from musical roots.

Additionally, Frost goes to great lengths to list the physical ingredients that make up the foundation of a given work. Thus the reverse might carry the hand written legend: sacking, scrim, Hessian, sail, netting, cloth, and ripstop (a maritime material). All these found and beach-combed materials are stitched, glued and interwoven to fabricate a surface upon which acrylic pigment, used straight from the can, is spread with vigour.

Despite this use of random materials, Frost has developed certain signatures in his painting and for a period the triangle or ‘chevron’ shape had a presence in his output (see Mel Gooding: essay for ‘The Colour of Sound’, Beaux Arts 2009). More recently, Frost has subsumed this material support beneath multiple layers of paint and freed himself up from the accidental (or contrived) contours of the constructed surface, allowing colour and impasto to define the orchestration. Of particular interest to him is the ‘edge’ where two colours meet, fail to meet – or overlap. Accident and error remain welcome ingredients in the process.

Can a work ever be truly abstract? Frost would like to think so: ‘ …a Malevich, a black square for instance? In my painting there is shape and surface and colour, then speed… rhythm… movement… space – all created by marks, by my putting these materials and paint together’. And Frost is also highly conscious of the dilemma facing many abstract painters whereby an overweening self awareness can quickly reduce a work to being merely decorative. ‘There is more than that, because I have put it in. I want to take painting as far as I can and this is why I respond to Mark E. Smith of The Fall who is prepared to go the whole way and f*** it up to get something good. Preciousness can creep in the minute you begin to put marks down and you have to guard against it…’

This introduces another concern exercising Frost. He has a natural dislike of formality and pretentiousness (‘I like the throwaway Picasso quote “…if you haven’t got any red – use blue” actually more or less my own philosophy’) which is famously a Frost family trait. But he does admit to being wary that this could be interpreted as a lack of serious intent: ‘non-precious is certainly not non-caring!’ he says vehemently. But he need not fear, the glittering prizes are already accruing. For example, in 2009 Anthony Frost was elected inaugural Master of the Open University at Plymouth College of Art, the first year Plymouth was authorised to confer such academic awards.

The death of his father Terry in 2003, at the age of 87, might be construed, in artistic terms, as a liberation of sorts, for whatever direction Anthony’s work now takes it is under his sole control and devoid of bilateral influence, however benign. Yet there is still a marked resistance to readily agreeing with those who find comfort in identifying the Cornish landscape in his work. Rather, he asserts, the painting of British artist John Hoyland might offer more clues to the direction he wants his work to go: ‘Hoyland is currently taking paint to places it has never been before. He’s willing to destroy his own reputation. It’s the Mark E. Smith attitude again, to go beyond to create something new. It’s very courageous. My own work is getting tougher, more physical.’

In Magnetic Fields, Frost admits that an element of decision making now dominates the expressionist, action painting dynamic of the past (he is a longstanding admirer of Jackson Pollock and de Kooning). He spends much more time in contemplation and the planning of each mark, a process that encompasses the physicality of placing himself in exactly the right position before the canvas and even cutting parts off problematic and unyielding pictures. However, he rarely destroys a painting completely, commanding it to evolve by force of will.

This current sensibility and the hint of new directions can be witnessed in the range of smaller works in Magnetic Fields. These compact, contained forces engender a lyrical quality which echoes that of the granite bedrock and boulder landscape of the Penwith Peninsular where Frost now – almost inevitably – lives. The works are more intensely collaged than before and thus the ‘edges’ have taken on added significance due to the increasing accent on impasto paint application. In earlier years, he consciously and adamantly (sometimes aggressively) refuted all suggestions that he was following the St. Ives tradition of responding to the potency of the natural environment – forms and perspectives that had overpowered Heron and Hepworth. Now, in more reflective mood and in a period of mature introspection, Frost concedes that such influences might well be at work on subliminal levels. And if there was ever such an unlikely thing as a horizon in his pictures, he is facing it with customary enthusiasm, confidence – and a reassuring and familiar brio.

Mike von Joel

2010

Mel Gooding, 2009

Anthony Frost: New Paintings

Mel Gooding

‘Everyone knows that yellow, orange and red suggest ideas of joy and plenty.’ (Delacroix, quoted by Kandinsky)

 

Anthony Frost has always had a passion for strong chromatic colour: primary, unmixed, it is often discordant in its relation to its neighbours, major not minor in its key, visually forte if not fortissimo. It communicates verve, excitement, an engagement with the world that is direct, not without nuance but without reserve. Close in on any small area of a Frost painting and you will find in microcosm the vibrant contrast and clash that characterises the image as a whole, and the immediate vitality of his painting, what might be described as its particular zing, its distinctively complicated chime and clamour, is created not only by the bold placement of colour against colour, but also by the aggregation of many smaller incidents of such complementary contrasts.

 

It is as if each painting must declare without ambiguity or reserve its raison d’etre, which is to shock the eye into surprise that such a brilliant and turbulent object exists, occupies real space, has taken its place among all the other objects in the world – paintings in particular – that enliven our vision.  Frost’s work, that is to say, is of a kind among whose primary purposes is to give pleasure, rather in the way that other vivid objects, natural, industrial, and cultural might do so, incidental to their own purposes in real life.  Paintings, of course  – unlike sea anemones, say, or flowers, boats, buoys, cranes, road signs, flags, etc – exist only to be looked at, having no other purposes beyond the provocation of thought and feeling, whether complex or simple, in the spectator.

 

Frost’s delight in strong colour and abstract forms, and his penchant for robust support materials, sacking and sail-cloth and the like, are perhaps not surprising. He was brought up, after all, in a household in which painting was the very stuff of life, in which, indeed, it seemed at times nothing less than a matter of life and death. His father, Terry Frost, was the least precious of painters, not averse to introducing collage, stitched thread and other materials into his paintings as it suited him. He was an artist passionately committed to things seen and experienced in the everyday world of objects, light, colour, movement and sound, and whose inclusive art wittily transformed them into the shapes, rhythms and colours of a musical abstraction.

 

It was a powerful example for a young painter, one that might have been inhibiting and intimidating for some, but which Anthony Frost clearly embraced with a vigorous insouciance and the determination to create an artistic modus operandi entirely his own. When it came to what his father had done, he would, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, ‘admire and do otherwise’. What he has inherited, without doubt, is the compulsion to combine and transform things found in the material world into an abstraction which endows them with a new life of their own, a life in the painting itself.

 

Direct reference to the visible world and the poetic adaptation of its object-shapes and colours, so pervasive a feature of his father’s work, is, however, virtually absent from his imagery, which has been consistently purely non-figurative and arbitrary in its forms and colours. In his work there is, moreover, a complete absence of what has been described as film colour, with its qualities of transparency and translucence. Frost’s colour world is dense and opaque, his colour is artificial, pigment-saturated; it is entirely without marine or aerial atmospherics. Unlike his father, Frost is not concerned to imitate or suggest natural light (which is the natural manifest of film colour: visible as aerial blue when we look at the sky) but, rather, to create colour-light on the surface of the painting itself. ‘In nature,’ wrote Hans Hofmann, ‘light creates the sensation of colour; in a picture, colour creates light.’

 

In Frost’s paintings it is a chromatic radiance complicated by textural variegation, its colour-planes compromised by interruption and corrugation, with actual shadows thrown by relief, and vitalised by contrasts and variations – though rarely of intensities – of hue. It is this latter tendency – to the concatenation of equal value hues – which produces the characteristic chordal ‘chime’ of his paintings of which I spoke earlier. It is as if each painting were an assertive affirmation of David Katz’s pregnant observation that in surface colour ‘[we] have a phenomenon of visual resistance which in a way contributes to the structure of the perceptible world as something existing in actuality.’ Colour in Frost’s paintings is unmistakeably objective and actual, ‘visually resistant’ in precisely the sense suggested by Katz.

 

Frost, I would say, is interested in pictorial space only in its planar manifestation: his paintings do not represent natural space inhabited by its multitudinous objects, but present themselves as objects in natural space. The colour in his paintings is the colour of itself; the object-image is the combination of these self-declarative paint-colours given an increased ‘actuality’ by exaggerated textures and physical relief. Space in the paintings is lateral and vertical, it is the actual space – the across and up-and-down – of the canvas plane itself; incidents in this space are not fictional, they are robustly physical, insistently textural, intriguingly tangible.

 

The spatial dynamics of these paintings are, then, necessarily those of the physical surface and the improvisatory orchestration thereon of colour shapes, patches, strokes, streaks, dabbles, flecks, splashes. Chance events and accidents are welcomed, bringing unexpected and surprising relations, accents and emphases. With regard to the larger formal elements, the colour shapes and their disposition across the canvas, Frost has enlarged his scope in these recent paintings, moving away from the diagonal dynamic of the chevron that characterised his painting for some years, and exploiting now an unpredictable diversity of formal device.

 

Notwithstanding this formal development, it is in the aspect of surface texture that Frost has continued to be at his most innovative as a painter, incorporating an increasingly resourceful variety of materials to complicate the picture surface. On the reverse of each canvas there is a scrupulous inventory of support materials, which may include net sacking, hessian scrim, sail cloth, tuile, ripstop sacking, plastic netting, rope, onion sack, rubber and any other material that the artist may come across on his walk to the studio, or are found for him by friends. It is necessary to distinguish Frost’s use of these materials from that of abstract collage, in which the character and colour of the original – it might be a scrap of wallpaper or newspaper, or a piece of coloured card – is maintained in its own right, incorporated to bring a strangeness, a colour accent, a contrast of texture or whatever to the completed image.

 

In Frost’s paintings, on the contrary, diverse materials are subsumed into the colour play; painted sometimes so thickly that their own characteristic textures are almost lost, they are subordinated to the image as a whole. They may retain bits of stitching, or such elements as sailcloth metal eyelets; they may be folded, ridged, ruckled and crumpled, their edges torn roughly the better to create surface incident. Their essential purpose is to provide a physical base for paint shapes, to carry and project colour in unpredictable ways, and for their weave and texture to create nuances of light and shade. Incorporated and activated, they are in fact aspects of the support, and they are described as such in Frost’s verso screeds.

 

The paint itself – colour straight from the can – provides Frost with further opportunities to enliven the surface. Sometimes mixed with clear acrylic gel, sometimes with the addition of pumice powder or garnet, sometimes pure pigmented acrylic, it may be matt or viscous or glossy. In his own improvisatory way, Frost sets out to exploit any or all of these qualities of visual texture, and of their colour-light implications, to achieve the constant buzz of contrast and change that is the essence of his painterly aesthetic. (In referring to Frost’s ‘improvisatory’ mode, I have in mind Kandinsky’s definition of ‘Improvisation’: ‘a largely unconscious, spontaneous expression of inner character…’) Frost likes to compare this visual vibrancy to the surface noise on a vinyl record, the analogue technology of which presents you with the thing itself, a material reality, not something virtually created by digital means.

 

Frost’s titles, fanciful and oddly poetic, are invented after the making of the painting: since he is not painting anything but the painting itself, there being no referential or allusive intent, then it is only when the painting as object exists in the world that it can be given a name. Usually these titles are taken or adapted from phrases heard, album or song titles, or phrases from lyrics, and like the other found materials that together constitute the physical work, Frost often carefully identifies their sources on the reverse. I ponder this, and conclude that it is because the artist regards these titles as part of the work, important insofar as their abstractness relates to that of the painting they identify. They suggest that its meaning and affect are likewise to be summoned from within the spectator’s experience, found in sensation, memory and reflection, in association and affection. The irreducible objective presence of the painting – the active conglomeration and sum of its colour and texture constituents – invites complications of response inevitable to an encounter with a brilliant and unprecedented artefact, especially one in which the most ordinary stuff, combined by brilliant colour, is sea-changed into something rich and strange.

 

Mel Gooding, 2009

Notes: Kandinsky quotes Delacroix in Concerning the Spiritual in Art: ‘The Language of Form and Colour’ (Dover, New York, 1977); David Katz’s The World of Colour (Kegan Paul, London, 1935) is extensively quoted by Adrian Stokes in Colour and Form (Faber & Faber, London, 1937); Hans Hofmann is quoted from Search from the Real and Other Essays, excerpted in Theories of Modern Art (ed. Herschel B. Chipp, University of California Press, 1968. Kandinsky’s definition of ‘Improvisation’ is from Concerning the Spiritual in Art: ‘Conclusion’.

Simon Armitage, 2007

Distracted and Ready For Action

Simon Armitage

If you spend any time in Cornwall, and particularly in St Ives, as I do, then Anthony Frost is hard to avoid.  Not the man himself, but the work, which adorns the walls of many a public space in the town. His trademark ‘triangle’ has even been incorporated into the logo of a local restaurant and the reflection of their neon sign can often be found floating in the sea during nights of high tide and little wind.  Frost explains that this triangle, like a laterally aligned stylus with a blunted tip, is in fact a diamond, and has been a recognisable motif in his work for many years now.

“How many?” I ask him.

“Too many,” he replies.

Apparently it stems from a project in which 52 artists were each sent a playing card and Frost received the ten of diamonds in his envelope.  He’s done dominoes as well.  But things are changing.  Of the thirty or forty pieces laid out in readiness for his new exhibition, Surface Noise, the diamond has been phased out, or at least relegated to some of the minor pieces.  Taking its place is something far less pre-figured, less cautious, possibly, and certainly more energised.  Whatever has given rise to this new burst of creative expression isn’t completely clear (I have my own theory – more of that later), but Frost is obviously excited about it.  And with good reason, in my opinion.  The work is exuberant, almost ecstatic in its use of colour, and suggests a kind of artistic exploration, in which the journey itself is the whole point of the project.  Paint and process, Frost says, are the key issues here, as if the finished product is almost an unexpected bonus. It begins with a surface – usually but not necessarily a stretched canvas – onto which a further surface might be appended, often some strip of fabric ripped from an everyday object, such as an onion bag, or a potato sack, or on one occasion, a director’s chair.  Onto several other pieces Frost has attached what to you and me looks like a piece of groundsheet, or the lining from some high-performance fleece jacket.  It’s called “ripstop”, apparently, a material from which sails and other maritime equipment are made, and I take it as an indication of Frost’s recent creative ebullience that he should be applying paint onto one of the world’s most liquid-resistant materials.  And apply paint he does, in great quantity. With such a hefty price for each tub a more prudent artist might be more careful as to how, where and why such paint is used.  But for Frost, intuition appears to be everything, and it’s for this reason, I would argue, that the studio is full of distractions.  The subconscious – like a night-animal coming to the lawn – can never be summoned.  Somehow, we must occupy our rational thoughts with other matters, and simply hope that the mysterious occurs.  So the kettle boils, or the phone rings, or the workmen whistle, or the view beckons.  Or a poet visits.  Or family and friends pop in for a chat.  And almost continually the radio speaks, or a CD plays.  It’s no mere accident that Frost is both a fan and an acquaintance of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, a master tactician when it comes to disruption and distraction, whose own output might be thought of as the musical equivalent of Frost’s paintings.  In fact Frost’s work proudly appears on the cover of a number of Fall record covers, most notably the Extricate album.  Typically enough, it was photographed upside down.  Restored to its correct perspective, it now takes pride of place on an easel in the middle of Frost’s studio, perhaps as trophy, perhaps as an emblem of everything that matters.  The fact that the studio is very cold is further testament to Frost’s attitude to art, and evidence of his technique.  A poet, sitting and writing, wouldn’t last half an hour in this temperature. But Frost’s restlessness must keep him warm as he approaches then withdraws from the work, or even turns his attention to another piece in order to keep the spontaneity alive.

The title of this current exhibition is a quote from another of Frost’s heroes, the late John Peel, and most of the pieces have been given names relating to song lyrics or track titles.  Captain Beefheart gets a mention, not surprisingly.  And if the music is name-checked as the inspiration for these works, it is also credited with a second function: that of creating sufficient diversion to allow Frost to steal in under the radar of his own rational mind and apply the brushstrokes.  Or the palette-knife.  Or whatever else he might attack the canvas with.  To that end, the pieces needn’t be thought of as literal interpretations of the tracks themselves, although it is intriguing to speculate that a kind of captured noise is on display here: the world of sound given its physical form; a sort of cross-section or CAT scan of the soul as it responds to musical stimulation.

That evening, at Frost’s house above the mystical and primal north Cornish coast, I wheel out my theory.  It’s a bit Freudian, I’m afraid.  Even a little bit Oedipal.  I’m thinking out loud at this point, but I wonder if this new vibrancy and freedom in his work isn’t a kind of ironic manifestation of bereavement, or release, for an artist who lost both of his parents about three years ago.  Not only did Frost grow up in the world of art, but in his own words, he grew up in “a house of abstraction.”  In those circumstances, wouldn’t all artistic rule-breaking feel like conformity, or the continuation of a family tradition?  Also, for a poet like myself, always rummaging in people’s dustbins for a free symbol or working metaphor, isn’t the piece “Digital Mystic”, with its bandaged cross set against a euphorically coloured background, both a tribute and triumphal at the same time?

Frost, his own man, isn’t so sure about this interpretation.  And he has every right to disagree.  After all, he’s spent a lifetime working all this out, and my own theory is less than a day old.  But in the hours after my departure, while I’m still lost on the mist-shrouded lanes of the Penwith Peninsula, I hope he might come to think of it as a compliment.  That was the intention.  It must take a heart of huge muscle to make such dazzling art from the canvasses and paint which were, quite literally, his inheritance.

 

Earlier in the day, back at the studio, I’d shown Anthony Frost a new trick.  Well, it’s probably old hat in the playground by now, but to me it’s a revelation.  Here’s how it works: play some music, dial 2580, then hold your mobile phone to the speaker.  A few seconds later a service called Shazam sends a text message with the name of the track and the recording artist.  Ten pence a shot.  Works every time.  My approach to art, it now occurs to me, is not dissimilar: I look at something, and wait for a response.  In the case of Anthony Frost, I detect an artist who is passionate about colour and transfixed by contrasts, and I sense art which resonates with personality and crackles with confidence.  Stand before these paintings, and listen.

 

Simon Armitage.

 

 

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