Richard Allen 1933-1999

“I have never approached painting with the idea that there has to be a beautiful end product. If beauty can be said to exist in a work I would consider it more a by-product. I would prefer to think of it in terms of a spiritual experience for some people.”

There are few artists who convey such a strong sense of spiritual purity in their work as Richard Allen. His paintings pull you in like an icon; devotional images that mesmerize with their myriad vestigial shapes beneath superficially plain and bold exteriors. They make you stare. And watch. And wait. Yet they also buzz with the cheerful, zappy energy of the billboard and advertising hoarding. By the time Allen hit 41 he had exhibited at the Whitechapel, and Hayward galleries and even been feted in a one-man show at the ICA. But his natural place in the pantheon of the great British artists of the 1960s and 70s alongside Bridget Riley, Peter Sedgley and Michael Kidner was never taken because he moved out of the London limelight to live on an island in the English Channel. His work requires no external endorsement. Catalogued for the first time since his death in 1999 it is clear that Allen’s work is amongst the most pioneering and compelling of its generation.

Six Panel Systems Painting (1972) on display at Tate Britain winter 2016 to spring 2017
Richard Allen's Six Panel Systems Painting in Tate Britain's BP Spotlight Display 2016-17