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Embracing the Abstract: Inside the Vibrant World of Artist David Lendrum

In this insightful interview for Your Cultural Dose, we delve into the creative world of David Lendrum, an accomplished artist renowned for his vibrant abstract paintings. David shares his thoughts on the evolution of art exhibitions, reflecting on his experiences with the West Norfolk Artists Association during the Covid-19 pandemic. He discusses the impact of virtual exhibitions on the accessibility of art and the ways in which technology is transforming the art world, extending its reach to a global audience. David also takes us on a tour of his studio, offering an intimate look at his unique creative process, from the selection of materials to the final touches that bring his dynamic compositions to life. He explains how his environment and tools inspire his work, providing a deep understanding of his artistic journey. Throughout the interview, David provides a profound insight into the role of abstract art in contemporary society, emphasizing its power to evoke emotions and offer a respite from the constant barrage of political and societal messages.


Can you share with us a pivotal moment or experience from your early life that sparked your passion for art?                                                                     

There is a photograph of myself aged four, watched by my family’s Alsatian puppy, painting the newly plastered wall of our house with water, using a big decorator’s brush. I remember being fascinated by the drips and dribbles of water as they ran down the wall; they were darker than the dry plaster and created interesting lines and patterns - it seemed magical to me! When I was a little older my parents gave me a painting by numbers set which contained two scenes of Curlews flying over a marsh, with a sunrise in the background. It was an image which greatly appealed to me and I painted it in as neatly as I could.


Painting by numbers, 1957
My very first painting (19.5 x 25.8 cm) … by numbers (!) at the age of eight

But the most pivotal moment for me was when a new art master appeared at my preparatory school, Friars, in Kent. His name was Mr. Van Doorne and he exuded charisma, especially when telling us about the prizes he had won in his illustrious career. Up to that point I had been splashing around with poster paints which always ended up very shapeless and muddy, but Mr. Van Doorne introduced us to working in soft pastels which was a revelation. I could draw and use colour at the same time which gave me far more control.


Jonathan van Doorne: Mountain Landscape, 1962
Jonathan van Doorne: Mountain Landscape, 1962, soft pastel on brown paper, 18.8 x 27.6 cm. Leaving present from J. van Doorne to David Lendrum

He showed me the way in which I could invent all sorts of marks to create different textures and effects - reflections in water or foliage in trees for example. He also pointed out that one should use the colour of the ground as a unifying part of the composition of the picture. Not only that, he would do a quick sketch on the blackboard of a landscape demonstrating all of these techniques. It was absolutely spell-binding and from then on, I was hooked as I tried to reproduce some of the techniques he taught. I recently researched him on the internet but found very little. It seems he came from Jersey where two highly accomplished portraits by him are in public collections, but sadly nothing else.


David Lendrum: Mountain Landscape, 1962
David Lendrum: Mountain Landscape, 1962, Soft pastel on brown paper, 17.8 x 24.7 cm. Inspired by Jonathan Van Doorne’s drawing above

David Lendrum: River at Dawn, 1962
River at Dawn, 1962, soft pastel on paper, 28 x 37 cm. It was highly commended in a school boy exhibition in 1963.

How has your journey from Bedfordshire to Norfolk influenced your artistic style and subject matter?                                                                           

My journey from Bedfordshire to Norfolk has taken many detours during sixty years, so it has been interrupted many times. It has been diverted via Huntingdonshire, Kent, Essex, Northumberland and London, all places which have had an influence at different times. What has remained a constant has been my love of Nature; until I studied Fine Art at Newcastle University my subject matter always came from what I saw around me, whether in the form of landscapes, seascapes, people (portraits) or still life (flowers, fruit, veg etc.). I have always preferred being outside compared to inside. I am a keen birdwatcher and a lover of all nature in general. Even if the art I do now is abstract there is always a connection to nature in some way or other. I grew up on the outskirts of a small village in what was Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire), surrounded by green fields and copses, where I could wander at will and find beautiful views to draw and paint. Trying to capture this on canvas was the motivator for me. From early on it was the Impressionists who inspired me the most – Monet and Cezanne in particular. Monet’s wonderful use of prismatic colour and brushstrokes to create light and atmosphere, Cezanne’s structured brushstrokes to depict solid forms and the rocky landscapes of his native Aix.


: David Lendrum: Still Life of Flowers with three Vases, 1966
Still Life of Flowers with three Vases, 1966, oil on hardboard, 61 x 50.8 cm. Influenced by Monet and Cezanne

Constable was also a big influence - his little oil sketches are just so wonderfully fresh and alive, full of feeling. In 1967 I undertook a large oil painting of a woodland scene, for which I had made a number of preparatory studies, using palette knives to create varied textures. It was quite a dark painting and I thought it needed a focal point. On one of my walks through a large wood I encountered a grisly scene of dead animals and birds hanging on a line - a gamekeeper’s catch. Outraged at this display of human cruelty, which besmirched the idyllic surroundings, I incorporated the grim spectacle into my unfinished composition, thus providing a focal point and title - ‘Confrontation’. My work doesn’t often have a message or a story but this painting certainly did.


David Lendrum: Confrontation, 1967
Confrontation, 1967, oil on canvas101 x 84 cm. A gamekeeper’s grisly catch

I also became interested in the dramatic chiaroscuro (light - dark) effect of Rembrandt’s self portraits and tried one myself.

David Lendrum: Self Portrait, 1967
Self Portrait, 1967, oil on hardboard, 61 x 51 cm. Inspired by Rembrandt
David Lendrum: Intersection, 1967
Intersection, 1967, oil on hardboard, 41 x 35 cm. This is my first abstract picture which I painted at the age of 18

Could you describe the role of your education at institutions like St. Martin’s School of Art and Newcastle University in shaping your artistic vision?

Studying on the Fine Art Degree Course at Newcastle University radically changed my approach to art. A key factor in this was the content of the Foundation Course which was based on the principles of the Basic Design Course at the Bauhaus, Germany. We were instructed to think like scientists, to treat the studio as a laboratory where we analysed the basic formal visual elements like Line, Tone, Colour, the Point, etc. We made endless tone scales, colour charts etc. using different media. There was a token Life Drawing session once a week which the tutors tried to relate to the studio practice but the numbers of students attending diminished rapidly because it didn’t seem relevant. All this was very new and difficult for me who had only worked with representation hitherto. At the same time, I had come to a bit of a dead end with representational painting and I wasn’t sure how to continue with it. What subject to paint, which style? I was somewhat interested in Francis Bacon and Giacometti but they were so idiosyncratic what was the point in going down that road?


David Lendrum: Dream, 1967
David Lendrum: Dream, 1967, oil on canvas, 89.5 x 71.3 cm. Partly inspired by Francis Bacon

I plodded on through the Foundation Course until the Final Major Project where we were instructed to choose an object and use it as a starting point for whatever we wanted. Finally, freedom! I chose a rock and abstracted it into a multi coloured, textured, shaped, collaged relief. It was the first project I had enjoyed and it set me on my next chapter. Embarking on the Degree Course the following year I decided to focus on sculpture because illusionistic representational painting seemed a bit old fashioned to me and I had already done a fair amount of that. I became interested first in ideas about transparency (producing a large cube with 7 stepped layers of thin muslin on each side, so it appears as if you are looking into a mysteriously dark and deep space), followed by concepts of balance which culminated in a human scale sculpture, which incorporated four cubes (supported by columns) which appeared to be ‘miraculously’ suspended above each other. The original sculpture was made by me out of plywood in 1971. In 2021, as the material was too fragile for the work to be placed outside, it was replicated in stainless steel by the welding and engineering specialists Catton’s Fabrications of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, UK.


David Lendrum: Suspense, 1971/2021
Suspense, 1971/2021, stainless steel, height: 152.5 cm.

Moving on to St Martin’s School of Art was a mixed experience. I had been accepted on to the Postgraduate Advanced Course in Sculpture, only to be told when the tutors looked at my work, that I knew nothing about sculpture and that I had to go back to the beginning. It prompted me to reflect on my artistic evolution thus far and whether I wanted to continue with sculpture or return to my original love, painting. In a sense I had only become interested in sculpture because it seemed a logical progression from two-dimensional art into three-dimensional art, which seemed more substantial and real to me at the time. However, I really missed using colour, paint and brushes so I decided to return to painting and I transferred from the Sculpture Course to the Painting Course. On the Sculpture Course, there was a house style of abstract constructed steel sculpture in the manner of Anthony Caro, the grey eminence of the sculpture department, which then morphed into heavy metal steel forging, which required considerable physical strength. I felt relieved to have reverted to painting. On the latter course there was also much more freedom so I could experiment with different painting ideas.

 

Below, you see three paintings done after my return to painting from sculpture:


David Lendrum: Morning Light, 1977
Morning Light, 1977, Acrylic on canvas, 183 x 168 cm.

David Lendrum: Purple and Blue, 1977
Purple and Blue, 1977, Acrylic on canvas, 141 x 130 cm.

(Left to Right) Autumn, 1978, Acrylic on canvas, 167.8 x 122 cm, Green Torrent, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 167 x 69 cm


You’ve had the opportunity to exchange studios and participate in workshops across different countries. How have these international experiences influenced your artistic language?

Perhaps the most important group event I participated in was the Triangle Workshop in Mashomack, New York State, U.S. in 1984. The workshop had been set up by the sculptor, Sir Anthony Caro, two years earlier with the aim of bringing together abstract artists from different countries to create paintings and sculpture and exchange ideas for a period of two weeks. There were 37 artists from six countries, the majority from the US and UK. The hub was a country clubhouse in upstate New York and we were all allocated a space in which to work in some huge barns in the grounds. There were lectures, discussions, visits from artists, critics and other luminaries from the American art world. It was a very intense fortnight. The aim was to move abstract art forwards in new directions and everyone was encouraged to experiment and take risks. Some of the Americans arrived with truckloads of paints, gels and canvas and a shop was provided where materials could be purchased. The differences in approach soon became apparent - the Americans all worked on the floor, not the wall or an easel; a length of canvas was stapled to a large, shallow platform on the floor and thin and thick, gel laden, acrylic paint was applied with squeegees, rakes, brooms, knives, rollers, decorating brushes, etc. The painting was completed in one session in a way that combined thought and instinct. It was then allowed to dry (often with the help of huge fans). They used a wide variety of gels to create thick, textured surfaces; for them this was the way forward for abstract art - it was primarily about ‘stuff’, not colour - or the ‘New New’ as their ‘school’ was named. The British artists on the other hand, didn’t only work on the floor but also the wall, and they believed the way forward was in the constant adjusting and changing of colours and shapes until the painting felt balanced and thus complete. They eschewed the gels and textures which they thought were merely decorative. One day the eminent critic, Clement Greenberg (the first and most eloquent champion of Jackson Pollock) visited. He looked at my painting which had undergone multiple changes and exclaimed disparagingly, ‘You’re just doing all those European tricks!’ In my frustration, I seized a length of canvas, stapled it to the floor, and swept some colours vigorously down it with a broom. I was sitting there, looking at what I had done and trying to assess it, when Greenberg returned and said ‘That’s it, that’s you! Do ten more!’


: David Lendrum: Assisi Memory, 1983
Assisi Memory, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 76.5 cm. Painting made just prior to the Triangle Workshop, USA. It was one of the paintings I submitted for admission on the workshop.

I still think about his words. What he meant, I think was, to paraphrase, ‘You must be true to yourself and trust your instinct, jettison all those hackneyed conventions about composition, relationships etc. just try and express yourself as simply and honestly as you can.’ There is a lot of truth in what he said and I have, sometimes at least, tried to follow his advice. There was an amusing moment on the day Greenberg visited. All of us were keen to impress him, but particularly the Americans as he still had considerable clout in the American art scene. My neighbour in the barn had done a very thick, gel loaded painting on the floor. Greenberg showed an interest and asked him to put it up on the wall. The artist, with the assistance of some colleagues, lifted it carefully up from the floor and stapled it in place. Just as Greenberg gave it his blessing with the pronouncement ‘That’s good!’  the still wet gel paint began to slide inexorably down the painting and towards the floor. I have never seen anyone move so fast as the artist as he tried to rescue his painting from disaster!

 

Here is a picture in oil, painted with a squeegee on the floor in the spirit of the Triangle Workshop creating a variety of different textures. Moreover, with this method, colours can be blended in a particularly interesting manner:


David Lendrum: Moorland Journey, 1988
Moorland Journey, 1988, oil on canvas, 116 x 162 cm.

In the 1980’s I did two exchanges of studios with artists in Germany (Düsseldorf and Bremen) and in the summer of 1988 I was one of six guest artists in a former school that was used as artists’ studios in Selk, Schleswig-Holstein. I exhibited a selection of paintings I produced there and I am still in touch with some of the artists with whom I established enduring friendships.


David Lendrum: Easter Blooms, 1988
Easter Blooms, 1988, acrylic on canvas, 162 x 116 cm. Painted when I was a guest artist in Selk, Schleswig Holstein, West Germany.

Your move to Norfolk in 2013 marked a significant shift in your artistic journey. Can you tell us about the impact of Norfolk’s landscapes on your creative journey?

My move to Norfolk in 2013 (with my wife, the artist, Helga Joergens) was very significant for me and marked a new chapter in my life and art. Having lived in London for over forty years the change from an inner-city urban environment to a location completely surrounded by nature was daunting. But because I spent my childhood and youth in the countryside, relocating to Norfolk, a county I had visited regularly over the years, seemed like coming home. I am fortunate to live in a house with ample studio and storage space. What struck me immediately were the ever-changing skies and the vast sense of space.


David Lendrum: Skyscape II, 2015
Skyscape II, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 145 x 175 cm.

I determined to relate my work to these awesome natural phenomena. Clouds have an abstract quality, they are amorphous, no two are ever the same and there are so many different types. They have a mysterious impalpability and the light is always changing, depending on the time of day or the weather conditions. Norfolk has amazing sunrises and sunsets. I embarked on a series of ‘Skyscapes’ which aimed to give the viewer the feeling of the sky without literally depicting it.


David Lendrum: Cloudscape 3 – Evening, 2021
Cloudscape 3: Evening, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 160 cm.

Primarily my paintings are about communicating feelings of wonder and beauty; although I give them titles as a way into them, the viewer is free to interpret them how they wish. I sowed some wild flowers in the garden when I moved here and they have been another source of inspiration. From Spring to Autumn there is constant change as the flowers bloom, die off and others take their place; their colours and forms give me ideas for paintings, as do the subtle effects of early morning mists, the colours and textures of Hunstanton cliffs or the wide sandy beaches.


David Lendrum: Shoreline, 2020
Shoreline, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 82 x 159 cm. Private collection

To keep renewing my art I look at nature in as many different ways as possible; it can be the textures on a piece of bark, the lichens on the side of a wall or the ripples on water.  For me the purpose of painting is to communicate a sense of mystery, wonder or joy; it must make me feel good or affect what I think of as my soul in some way. That is where painting most relates to the condition of music which is another art form I really enjoy. Moods created in music can be reflected in painting and Norfolk has an abundance of it - in particular I must mention the North Norfolk Music Festival, of which I am a member, and which organises superb concerts throughout the year. In my last year of living in London my work had lost some momentum and I needed something new as stimulation - the land, sea- and skyscapes of `Norfolk have been instrumental in giving me a new energy and motivation to further develop my art.

 

As a member the West Norfolk Artists Association and Artfolk of Norfolk, how do you perceive the artistic community in Norfolk compared to your experiences in London?

In London I had friends who were artists but I was never formally a member of any specific group - and I do admit that I have never been invited to join one!  To paraphrase Groucho Marks, I would never want to belong to any group which would have me as a member! On my arrival in London in 1971, I almost took a studio space at Stockwell Depot in South London, where a group of ambitious abstract sculptors and painters were working (they were also teaching at St Martin’s School of Art). They shared some of the same ideas and exhibited together as a group, some of them becoming very successful artists. I was never a member of this circle but I loosely followed what they were doing. What I found with them and some others in London of which I am familiar, is that inevitably a leader (or leaders) emerge; they tend to set the agenda for what they believe is ‘good’ art and the discussion can become aggressive, intolerant and competitive. Some of this can be fine but too much can have a negative effect and result in the group members producing very similar work with a consequent loss of individuality. I strongly believe every artist should have the freedom to find their own way and not be shackled by groupthink. We are all unique and our art should express that.


What has impressed me about the artistic community in Norfolk is that the artists are very supportive of each other while at the same time offering constructive criticism, which is something I value. They are open minded, inquisitive and not bound by preferences of style or dogma. The committee of the West Norfolk Artists Association is very committed and works tirelessly in organising exhibitions, publicity, social events and opportunities for its members. Currently, it is working on a big new exhibition space, gifted by a generous donor, in King’s Lynn. Without the energy and drive of the committee this wonderful opportunity would never have got off the ground. I am also a member of the ‘Wild Form Artists’ Group which consists of four artists - Jane Brun, Helga Joergens, Barbara King and myself - who celebrate the beautiful flora and fauna as well the natural scenery of Norfolk. We all work in different styles but are very mutually supportive, exhibiting and sharing ideas together. ‘Artfolk of Norfolk’ is another organisation of which I am a member and which has organised exhibitions and posted my work online, thus reaching a wider audience and potential clients.      

 

2021 was a remarkable year for your exhibitions, notably receiving the Curators’ Choice for Best Work in the exhibition at the Fermoy Gallery. Could you share the inspiration behind the award-winning piece, ‘Summer Garden 1’?

‘Summer Garden 1’ was the first of a series of paintings I did on this theme. I started by cutting out a piece of canvas with scissors before stapling it to a flat piece of chipboard on the floor.  I wanted to create the feeling of a light filled space using colours and marks, which could suggest flowers in a garden. In the upper section of the painting, I wanted a feeling of sunshine, hence the yellow, which filtered down through warm and cool greens, to a shadowy area, rendered in purple. The sense of a gentle flowing movement from top to bottom was important, as was the delicate, atmospheric softness which I achieved by staining the colours directly into the unprimed canvas, using water based acrylic paint applied with sponges. This technique enables me to achieve a subtle blending of colours, wet into wet.  


I let this first layer of paint dry before continuing to add touches of colour with rags and brushes, in order to suggest the flowers and foliage of a garden. I used different reds, browns and oranges to give variety and to contrast with the background colours of the first stage of the painting. I adjusted the reds and oranges continuously until I was sure they had the right amount of brightness and variation. When the painting seemed complete (I couldn’t add anything else without upsetting the composition), I unstapled it and attached it to the wall so I could see what it looked like in its proper position. Satisfied, I measured the painting, had a stretcher made to the correct dimensions, and stapled the painting on to it using canvas pliers. Finally, I cut some thin strips of wood to size and framed the painting with them.


I was pleased with the outcome. The painting, although abstract, achieved the feeling of sunlight and a garden which was my aim.


(Left to Right) David Lendrum: Summer Garden 1, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 97 x 47 cm .Curators’ choice WNAA exhibition Fermoy Gallery 2021, Summer Garden 2, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 102 x 46 cm.


Your participation in the Hidden U.K. - Hidden Ireland exhibition curated by Sean Scully in 2022 was noteworthy. Can you elaborate on your experience and the significance of being selected for this exhibition?

I felt very honoured to be selected by the internationally renowned artist, Sean Scully, for this exhibition. I had been a fellow student and friend of Sean’s at Newcastle University where we both studied Fine Art. He was interested in the sculpture I was doing at that time and he rediscovered me when he checked out my work on my website. The gallery Flowers (with exhibition spaces in London, New York and Hong Kong) had invited Sean to curate a summer exhibition on the theme of relatively unknown artists who had impressed him with the quality of their work for some years and whose work did not often feature in prestigious exhibitions. The exhibition took place in Flowers East, a large Flowers gallery in East London. There were twenty-six artists selected altogether, each represented by one painting. Some of the works were very large in scale, others were small, a mixture of representational and abstract, with many different media and materials employed.  I was asked to email two images of my paintings from which one was selected for the exhibition - ‘Sunlit Pool’, an abstract acrylic painting in greens and yellows which suggests light reflecting off water.


: David Lendrum: Sunlit Pool, 2017
Sunlit Pool, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 111 x 84 cm.

The exhibition was reviewed favourably by critics and it was good to meet some of the other artists at the Private View of the exhibition. It also opened up some further opportunities for exhibitions and contacts with other artists.

 

How do you approach the transition from physical exhibitions to online showcases, and what impact do you think virtual exhibitions have on the accessibility of art?

During Covid I took part in some online exhibitions with the West Norfolk Artists Association and they were very successful because it was the only way the artists could exhibit their work. They also attracted a larger audience because the online works were open for the public to view online. You find the same technology happening with auction houses. All of them now post their auctions online, thereby attracting a far greater number of bidders; they reach a global audience which was not possible before the internet. What I would say, however, is that there is no substitute for seeing a work of art in the flesh, despite the amazing accuracy of colour and detail which is now possible to show online. There is something about standing in front of a painting or sculpture that cannot be replicated on a flat screen. I’m completely in favour of using online platforms but they can never be quite the same as reality.

 

Your studio seems to be a vital space for your creative exploration. Can you walk us through your creative process and how your studio environment influences your work?

My studio is the nerve centre of everything I do and where everything I need to make art resides. Because I sometimes work on a large scale, I have big pots of paints (mostly acrylics but also oils), a range of plastic buckets in which I mix my paints, brushes of all types and sizes, other tools like squeegees, palette knives and sponges, as well as a roll of canvas and smaller stretched canvases. I have a few books and reproductions of paintings I admire to inspire me. I also have some of my own paintings on the wall to get me going. I have worked in many ways - I started off as a representational easel painter - but nowadays I start by taking a piece of unprimed canvas (cotton matting duck, which I buy in a roll) and staple it to the floor. The stapling prevents the canvas from shrinking when the diluted colours I pour or sponge on to it in the first layer, dry out.


I decide the range of colours I am going to work with and mix them up with a little washing up detergent in a bucket. The detergent allows the colours to easily penetrate the canvas when I start applying them. The colours I use vary for each painting depending on whether they have been inspired by a sky, wild flowers, or a rusty surface, for example. My inspirational source can come from anywhere, it has to fill me with wonder somehow. Once I start painting, I allow my feeling and intuition to take over, there is also an element of chance because when you are pouring paint you cannot control it completely. To begin with I use squeegees, brooms, sponges, brushes etc. to spread the colours around. One colour suggests another and I keep applying them until the surface is covered. I sometimes add thicker gels to the paint at this point to give more body to the surface.


David Lendrum: Space Journey, 2018
Space Journey, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 108 x 199 cm.

Painting ‘Space Journey’ in my studio, 2018
Painting ‘Space Journey’ in my studio, 2018

David Lendrum: Whirlwind, 2016/23
Whirlwind, 2016/23, acrylic on canvas, 175 x 144 cm.

Adding the final touches with a sponge, 2020
Adding the final touches with a sponge, 2020. In the background, you see ‘Whirlwind’

When I feel I cannot add any more, I stop painting and wait for it to dry, which can take a day or two depending on the temperature. After the painting has dried, I unstaple it from the floor and attach it to the wall, faced with chipboard, with staples. If I am satisfied, I leave it; if not I continue working on it with brushes and other tools until I think it is complete. It’s a very personal judgement I make as to when the painting is finished; it has to fill me with excitement, wonder, mystery or joy (preferably all four!) and a belief that I cannot change anything in it without ruining it. These days I like the feeling of fluidity and movement, that everything is in flux. I think that’s how I think about the world now.

 

When the painting is completely dry on the wall, I use builders’ tape to determine where the edges of the painting should be (sometimes I crop sections off). I then phone up a stretcher manufacturer in London and they cut it to size and send it to me. I used to make all my own stretchers but I cannot waste time on that any more! When I have removed the painting from the wall and stretched it, I usually frame it with very thin strips of wood I buy and cut to size. It finishes the picture off. A lot of the chance effects I see in my studio - for example, paint spatters on the floor or the colour patterns I see in the buckets in which I mix my paints, can be a source for a painting. Something beautiful can occur in the most unexpected places!

 

My studio is not only a place for work but also for playful fun as the following picture shows. The bright colours and lively rhythm are intended to put a smile on your face.


 David Lendrum: Summer Holiday, 2002
Summer Holiday, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 173 x 126 cm.

Your paintings have been likened to the works of Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock.  How do you navigate the balance between spontaneity and intentionality in your art?

All the Abstract Expressionists began their careers as representational artists - Willem de Kooning’s early works are as skilled as the great Dutch Still Life painters - and they had a thorough understanding the principles of representation. I think they felt that they couldn’t do anything new or original in that way and they were desperate to find new subject matter which reflected the time they were living in. I remember seeing Jackson Pollock’s ‘Number One’, ‘Autumn Rhythm’ and ‘Lavender Mist’ on my first visit to the U.S. in 1978. The scale, energy, unconventionality, the sheer daring, were overwhelming.  


David Lendrum: Blizzard, 1989
Blizzard,1989, acrylic on canvas, 103 x162.5 cm.

The paintings at first glance seemed chaotic but on closer inspection there was a structure and order to them created by the arcs and loops of the dripped trajectories of the paint. It wasn’t the order of clear, balanced, composed shapes but one which came out of the painting process itself. Actually, Pollock himself said that there was absolutely no chance in his paintings! An American abstract painter (Larry Poons) I admire, said that when you look at nature everything seems right. It may be there seemingly by chance or accident but it still looks right. That’s the feeling I get from most of Pollock’s paintings. You think it is easy to do but it isn’t - it has to have an underlying, hidden structure and colours that harmonise together. I aim to achieve this synthesis in my paintings through a mixture of thought, chance and intention, responding to the demands of the painting as it evolves. Monet’s late, mural size water lily paintings had a big influence on Pollock and they have a similar type of space. As Pollock said, he wanted his paintings to have no beginning and no end. That is something I want now as well - it is the mood which is communicated that is most important to me, nothing too specific.


David Lendrum: Light Reflections, 1999
Light Reflections, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 174 x 235 cm.

Throughout your career, you’ve not only been an artist but also a lecturer at Southwark College. How has teaching influenced your artistic practice and vice versa?

Before I became a lecturer at Southwark College, I had a number of part time jobs which enabled me to rent a flat and studio, as well as providing me with enough money to buy art materials. I worked as a warehouseman for five years at Marks and Spencer’s in Oxford Street, starting work at 6.00 a.m. and finishing at midday, six days a week. Working these hours allowed me to go to my studio in the afternoon and paint. Marks and Spencer’s were very generous to their staff, providing a virtually free breakfast and lunch which meant I didn’t have to spend much on food which was a big bonus.  After that I was a van delivery driver in London working three days a week, so I could continue with my art on my days off. I then worked part time for a number of years as a piano restorer; it was a satisfying job because I learned how to repair the intricate, internal parts of a piano and to French polish their cases.  During these years I always had a studio and continued to paint. I also learned some useful skills, how to manage my time and that if you want to be an artist it will not be easy and you may have to make sacrifices! I was very fortunate to rent a studio and living space from Acme Housing Association, founded in 1973, which was set up in the East End of London specifically to provide cheap accommodation for artists. Without their philanthropy I would have found it very difficult to continue as an artist.

 

Eventually, I was appointed as a lecturer at Southwark College in South London where I worked for over twenty years.  I became Head of Visual Studies which entailed teaching drawing and painting on all the Art Courses in the college. BTEC National, General, and Higher Diplomas, the Foundation Course, ‘A’ level Art and Adult Classes were all in my remit. I encountered a wide range of students, some of whom were very talented and committed, from varying cultures, countries and backgrounds. Life Drawing and drawing and painting from still life set ups were important parts of the courses, as was research and experimentation with media and materials. I learnt a lot myself from these classes as I would be required to demonstrate these skills and use media I hadn’t used before. There was also fruitful interaction with students and staff about ideas, some of which I carried through into my own paintings. For example, the following two paintings were inspired by a project on geometric shapes which I taught my students.


David Lendrum: Blue Garden, 1997
Blue Garden, 1997, acrylic on canvas, 173.9 x 119.9 cm.

David Lendrum: Line and Circle Variations I, 1997
Line and Circle Variations I, 1997, charcoal and acrylic on canvas 167.6 x 122.4 cm.

It was a stimulating environment and some high-quality work was produced. A mature student from Wuhan in China painted a superb mural of a view of the huge bridge and river flowing through his home city; he spoke very little English but as he could paint so well, he didn’t need to! It was very satisfying to see many students progress to Degree Courses at high quality Art Schools and go on to have successful careers in Art and Design.

 

In your opinion, what role does abstract art play in contemporary society, and how do you see your work contributing to this narrative?

For me the role of abstract art is to give the viewer an uplifting or challenging visual experience; it can stir your emotions (make you feel happy or sad), give you a sense of wonder and mystery or make you intrigued or fascinated. There are many types of abstract art from the raw and expressionistic to the calm and beautiful. It is a very pure form of art because it does not have any sort of agenda - political, societal, cultural etc. - in fact it deliberately avoids these. It only requires to be looked at and have the emotions stirred by the colours, shapes, textures, etc. that are in the painting or sculpture in front of you. We are exposed to so much political and other propaganda of all types today that we need a respite from that and abstract art provides it, a world where feeling and beauty are paramount, much in the same way music does. If this is escapism, so be it, I personally need it. I think abstract art at a deeper level is about the freedom of the individual to express themselves as they wish without the diktat of any other group or agency. I had a few solo exhibitions and took part in two person and group exhibition in restaurant settings which have always been very well received. Here are two examples. I like to think that beautiful art can enhance the environment and add to peoples’ happiness and mental wellbeing which is an important role for art:


Solo exhibition in a restaurant in London, 2010
Solo exhibition at the Delphina restaurant in London, 2010

Solo exhibition at Halesworth, 2011
Solo exhibition at the cultural centre ‘The Cut’ in Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, 2011

Two-person Exhibition in a restaurant in King’s Lynn, 2023
Exhibition in the Purfleet Brasserie in King’s Lynn, 2023

Looking towards the future, what are some upcoming projects or aspirations you have for your artistic journey?

My biggest aspiration is to keep painting for as long as I can. There is so much more I want to express - I would like to explore some different ranges of colour and to work in oils again because the slow drying time means you can create richer textural effects. I expect to continue working in an abstract vein but I don’t rule out returning to representation if I feel I have exhausted all the abstract imagery available to me.

 

There are exhibition opportunities which may open up soon. For example, a generous exhibition space will become available in King’s Lynn soon, and I may be invited to show some paintings there. These and other opportunities are exciting, and I hope they bear fruit in due course.


I am shortly going to make a series of YouTube videos and podcasts about my life in art for the online Hinton Magazine and the Cultural Dose which again is an exciting prospect; it will help me reach a wider audience and I am very much looking forward to it.

David Lendrum: Storm Clouds, 2024
Storm Clouds, 2024, Acrylic on canvas, 83 x 174 cm.

It's clear that David's dedication to his craft is unwavering. His aspirations for the future are as vibrant and dynamic as his paintings, with plans for upcoming exhibitions and multimedia projects that promise to extend his reach and influence. David's reflections on the importance of abstract art, both as a form of personal expression and as a means to enhance mental well-being, underscore his belief in the transformative power of art. His journey, marked by a blend of spontaneity and intentionality, continues to inspire and captivate audiences. We look forward to seeing how David's work evolves and how he continues to push the boundaries of visual expression, enriching the cultural landscape with his innovative and expressive art.


 

Picture Credits: Portrait of the Artist, 2024: © Hinton Media, Curtis Hinton; Jonathan van Doorne: Mountain Landscape, 1962: photo: Helga Joergens, © Jonathan van Doorne 1962; David Lendrum: River at Dawn; Suspense: photos and ©: David Lendrum; all other photos: Helga Joergens, © David Lendrum

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