Jesse Bruton at Ikon Gallery

Jesse Bruton is one of the founding members of the IKON Gallery and a Birmingham College of Art Graduate and former lecturer. This stunning retrospective looks back on Bruton’s development of his artistic practice from 1950s through to its end in 1972 – when Bruton turned to painting conservation.


Jesse Bruton, Devil’s Bowl (c.1965). Oil on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist

Bruton studied at the previously known Birmingham College of Art now Birmingham School of Art, where he met the artists David Prentice, Robert Groves and and Sylvani Merilion. Who along with Angus Skene, would go on to establish the critically acclaimed IKON Gallery. Their paths crossed by mere chance, as in 1963 Skene purchased one of David Prentices’ early works for £25 – humorously delivered to Skene’s house in Selly Oak, strapped to the side of his Vespa Scooter. They all felt a lack of support for contemporary art or artist from the leading galleries at the time, and out of that discontent – the idea of the IKON gallery was born.

Jesse Bruton was “preoccupied with the nature of travel” and was greatly influenced by landscape. Amongst these were the Spanish landscapes from his scholarship days, the Dutch townscapes, the Welsh mountain and Pembrokeshire coastal landscapes. Bruton worked from drawings and photographs of particular places he had visited, he translated the slopes and jagged rocks through a very minimal colour palette.

These travels can be seen within his paintings, at his current solo show at IKON Gallery, which runs until 11th September 2016. The show opens with a number of paintings that show Bruton’s brief interest in colour, and how he combined its use with multiple textures to create his early landscape works. Two of his earliest sketchbooks are shown, these prove to be the most intimate pieces as you feel closer to the artist at work.

“I wasn’t particularly interested in colour. I wanted to limit the formal language I was using – to work tonally gradating from black to white, leaching out the medium from the paint in order to enhance a variety of textures. I also felt that colour got in the way of describing the structure of the landscape …”

Compared with the previous paintings, Bruton’s later works show a shift into a minimal colour palette and composition. He depicts sloping and meandering thick white lines that cut through the black of the background, fading in and out of white, grey and black.These works were produced after the long – distance driving that Bruton undertook. They convey Bruton’s personal experience of his journeys, and a sense of isolation can be felt through the forms that Bruton has chosen, the black backgrounds of multiple paintings seem to engulf the seemingly fragile, white calligraphic forms.

The exhibition runs till 11th September and there is a full colour catalogue available in the IKON’s Gallery shop.

Jesse Bruton and Pamela Scott Wilkie in conversation with Jonathan Watkins, Thursday 8th September, 6-7.30pm – FREE

This event is an opportunity for you to hear from the artists themselves, in conversation with current IKON Gallery Director Jonathan Watkins. They discuss the earliest memories they have of the IKON gallery and their shared interest in journeys and how they represent them in their artistic practices.

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