Artwork by Kenneth Campbell Lochhead,  Colour Rotation

Kenneth Lochhead
Colour Rotation

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1964 on the reverse
80 x 67 ins ( 203.2 x 170.2 cms )

Sold for $54,280.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Marlborough Godard, Toronto
The Collection of TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary
Ted Fraser, Kenneth Lochhead: Garden of Light, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 2005, page 54
A founding member of the Regina Five painters, Kenneth Lochhead moved to Regina in 1950 to teach art at the University of Saskatchewan. Because of his art, teaching, as well as his active role in the contemporary art world, Lochhead helped to give the Regina arts scene national status and has inspired generations of artists across Canada in the second half of the twentieth century. The artist’s cubist path to abstraction resulted in a colourful geometric abstract style, with clean, straight lines and shapes, as well as a large scale, as exemplified in “Colour Rotation”.

Dating to 1964, this work was painted during the height of Lochhead’s career as an abstract artist. The early sixties were highly active and successful for the painter on a national and international level. Lochhead had been painting in a completely non-representational manner since the beginning of the decade, and exhibited at the National Gallery in 1961 as a member of the Regina Five, who were considered to be at the forefront of Canada’s modern art movement. He had been participating in the Emma Lake Professional Artists’ Workshops since 1955, with guest workshop leaders including Abstract Expressionist painters and critic Clement Greenberg. Lochhead’s abstract work of the 1960s and 1970s, such as “Colour Rotation”, bear resemblances to the Color-Field painting movement, which had recently established itself in New York. The rectangular blocks of muted orange, mustard yellow and blue-grey radiate from a red triangle in the centre of the composition, against a raw cream canvas. The geometric shapes appear to be perfectly straight at first glance, but upon closer inspection the rectangles are composed of slightly curved and irregular lines. Lochhead’s strategy of painting an image that bears only a hint of the artist’s gesture was a shared trait among artists affiliated with Color-Field painting. The movement placed less emphasis on brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form, characterized by large fields of flat, solid colour and a flat picture plane.

Colour Rotation shows similarities to American artist Kenneth Noland’s concentric circle and chevron canvases. The two painters met and corresponded regularly, and Noland led an Emma Lake workshop in 1963 at Lochhead’s request. Author Ted Fraser writes that “[Noland’s] concentric circles and chevrons proved to Lochhead that hard-edged colour and deductive geometry could propel the eye in and out of space and across the surface. Colour could do the job without embellishment of line or shading, without extraneous subject matter.” Colour Rotation demonstrates that Lochhead was successful in applying Noland’s advice; the three rectangular blocks of colour appear to be radiating from the central triangle and leading the viewer’s eye in a spinning motion against the canvas.

The year 1964 was a significant one for Lochhead, as it marks shift in his work from gestural to hard-edge abstraction. Toward the end of 1963, he had abandoned using masonite as a support, in favour of adjustable rolls of cotton duck canvas. Lochhead also abandoned textural enamel paint for the new transparency of water-based acrylic, a preferred medium among Color-Field painters. The artist corresponded frequently with Clement Greenberg during 1963-64, discussing formalism, the international art scene, and exhibition opportunities. Lochhead and Noland were both featured in Clement Greenberg’s 1964 influential exhibition “Post-Painterly Abstraction”, curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and subsequently the Walker Art Center and the Art Gallery of Toronto.
Attracting feverish bidding, this artwork sold for more than double its opening bid, establishing a new auction record for Lochhead’s work during the Fall 2018 Live Auction of Important Canadian Art.

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Kenneth Campbell Lochhead
(1926 - 2006) Regina Five, Order of Canada