Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Living paint: Edwin Lucas’s ‘Resurrection’

To mark this best of all possible days, here is a bit of a cracker (click to enlarge) by the always interesting, and sometimes startling, Edwin G Lucas (1911-1990), the subject of an earlier post on this blog. (A biography and whole galleries of his work can be found here.)

The Resurrection, dated to 1940, is lifted from the Art UK site, where it’s credited to NHS Lothian, the owners, perhaps surprisingly, of nearly 500 paintings. So I guess you might stumble unexpectedly across this abstract expressionist parody of the baroque somewhere along the meandering corridors of an Edinburgh hospital, or at least let’s hope so.

I’m left wondering how Lucas achieved the consistently gorgeous, squidgy, almost munchable plasticity of his rapid brush marks. And how did he get those edges and tonalities into each sweep of paint? Presumably he left the bare strokes to dry off a bit before painstakingly tweaking in the details that transform some of them into teeny tiny people with little beards and haircuts, the multitudes of the redeemed. It’s a feat of technical virtuosity, and a witty celebration of the sheer incarnational lushness of paint, the brush marks coming to life – in more senses than one – before our eyes. And at the heart of it all, the luminous, cross-shaped body of Christ pings from the tomb. Alleluia!

As a rule I disapprove of God as a sky-god, but I rather like the big cartoony egghead Father at the top here.

If the 1940 dating is secure on this, it’s hard to think of anything else comparable. It would be more than a decade before Howard Hodgkin (to whom I’ve compared Lucas in a different respect) would start cramming his spaces with plasticky splatches. In fact, it doesn’t even resemble anything else by Lucas that I recall seeing. Maybe it’s a quite wonderful one-off?

Hell is harrowed. Happy Easter!

3 responses to “Living paint: Edwin Lucas’s ‘Resurrection’

  1. David Hackbridge Johnson April 1, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    A stunning painting!

  2. lucasalan August 2, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Dear Richard, thank you for another lovely article about my father’s work!

    Re “If the 1940 dating is secure on this”, this painting was exhibited at the Society of Scottish Artists annual exhibition in 1940, catalogue no 384. Furthermore there’s a rare opportunity to see it first hand, in a new exhibition Edwin G Lucas: An Individual Eye, which opens at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh on Sat 4 Aug 2018 and runs till 10 Feb 2019.

    • richardawarren August 2, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Dear Alan

      You’re welcome. I wasn’t aware of the exhibition (nor the catalogue, which I’ve just ordered), so I’m very grateful for the heads up. Seems like an opportune moment to do a small post on this. Excellent news! And I hope it’s a great success. Best, Richard.

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