Fred Cuming and his use of light and colour have always attracted me to his work and I am extremely happy to have recently acquired a wonderful still life oil on board depicting a vase of flowers. Indeed, the last time I was at Bonhams for a sale, I watched two similar works sell for very good prices and have been searching for some time for the right work to come my way.
One of my occupational hazards is trying to read about three art books at once and at the moment I can recommend two. The first is 'The Visitors Book' which is so visual that I almost feel I was there with Francis Bacon, John Minton, The Roberts, and the rest of the Fitzrovia 'gang' in the drunken post war period of the 1950s. The book is about the lives of Richard Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller and if you have not heard of them it is a must read book. I know I am digressing and need to focus on Fred Cuming but this is the other book that I am currently consuming. 'Another figure in the landscape' is also a must read if you, like me, love the work of Fred Cuming. He tells us all about his working and influences which I will not rehash here but is a collectors study staple.
So, where is the link between the two , I hear you ask? Well its something I have just read in Fed Cuming's book and its 'Visual Intelligence', which is a phrase I have not heard before. I am a great believer in Emotional Intelligence and much has been written on the benefits of such over IQ for example. He talks about some people having visual acumen far ahead of their fellows, who are open-minded about what they expect to see and do not see art as merely a reproduction process. It is, he says , people with a willingness to become fascinated by the mechanics of just 'seeing' such as film makers and theatre directors, lateral thinkers, people with a commanding, even obsessive, drive and focus.
This made me reflect on Francis Bacon whose work was initially heavily criticised but he continued with his work despite these adverse reviews and also of Wirth-Miller who against the odds became a great , if not under recognised, painter of abstract landscapes. Both men where self taught with little formal training yet their Visual Intelligence was so strong that they succeeded in making a career in art . I think Fred Cuming is correct in his views and some people are just more open to visual stimuli and see and translate emotion in colour and light. Certainly, Cuming is one of these people, his use of colour and light is quite wonderful and he is rightly considered to be the greatest living landscape painter of our time. But, it is not just landscapes where these skills are to be seen and in his conclusion to the book says the following which illustrates this well.
" From my studio shed I see everything transformed by the angle of the light in autumn evenings, a magical half-hour of brilliant gold light against shadows and darker areas. The jam-jar on my window-sill holding dead flowers, thistles and teasels is transmuted into gold, a treasure from the tomb of Tutankhamen. And then as the light fades different shades appear, gold turning to beautiful mauves and browns, dramatic contrasts reduced to subtle harmonies, the explosive sound of a huge orchestra dwindling to a gentle sonata of greys , mauves and pinks'
Now I know why the work of Fred Cuming resonates with me so much, its his Visual Intelligence.
The work shown above is currently for sale.