Artwork by Raymond John Mead,  Cassiobury

Ray Mead

acrylic on canvas
signed and dated 1979 on the reverse
48 x 35 ins ( 121.9 x 88.9 cms )

Auction Estimate: $9,000.00$7,000.00 - $9,000.00

Price Realized $8,050.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2016

Theo Waddington Inc., Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto
Ray Mead quoted in Joan Murray, “Ray Mead: Two Decades”, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, 1982, page 4
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Vancouver/Toronto, 2007, page 104 and 106
Growing up in a small community outside of London, UK, Mead was afforded access to some of the greatest art galleries and museums in the world from a nurturing family open to the visual arts. Often visiting the Tate, the National Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Mead developed an appreciation for British and European artists. Pursuing a Fine Arts degree at the Slade School of Art, Mead honed both his technical skill and critical introspection of art with the progressive teaching methods. Shortly after graduating, Mead joined the Royal Air Force, serving during the Second World War before being stationed in New York as a training pilot and moving to Hamilton thereafter.

Exposure to the Abstract Expressionists in New York during the 1950s had a deep impact on Mead particularly in relation to colour field painting. In 1953, Mead, along with other young artists of the time, formed Painters Eleven. A revolutionary group for Canadian art, Mead sought to unlock the rigid constraints of painting in Canada and open painting to more expressive possibilities. Commitment to colour in large scale abstract works developed into a more formal approach to Mead’s work throughout the 1970s and 1980s with more geometric ordering to his canvases.

“Cassiobury” exemplifies the artist’s commitment to both formalism and expressionism in visual art with bold expressive colour constrained into deliberate geometric forms. Interestingly, there is a reference that can be drawn as well to the artist’s experiences as a RAF pilot during the Second World War. While the work may be able to stand alone as a colour field work, it is also referential to landscape painting. Much like Mark Rothko who explored simplified landscape and figural work early in his career with either horizontal or vertical lines respectively, Mead also incorporated the landscape tradition in his work, purifying the genre. In keeping with other works by the artist from the late 1970s, Mead paints the horizon line high in the composition acting as the singular element referring to the landscape.

Moreover, Cassiobury was once the ancestral land and residence of the Earls of Essex in the area of Watford, Hertfordshire, England, north west of central London where the artist grew up. Now a larger suburb and public park after demolition of the Old Cassiobury House in 1927, Cassiobury Park became the main public part to the town. Perhaps, even, “Cassiobury” lends itself to a more topographical reading as an aerial view of the park referencing Mead’s time as a pilot studying maps and viewing the world from above. The artist’s background, then, could lend a clue to the inspiration for the work. In an interview with Joan Murray, Mead comments, “Basically, my painting is really landscape.”

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Raymond John Mead
(1921 - 1998) Painters Eleven