Brian Rice Paintings 1952 – 2016 || Andrew Lambirth

Published to coincide with the artist’s 80th birthday, this catalogue raisonné includes all of Rice’s work from a long career.

In the London art scene in the 1960s, Brian Rice was part of what amounts to a crowd of talent centred round the RCA and included such luminaries as David Hockney, Peter Blake, Allen Jones and Joe Tilson. He was interviewed by Michelangelo Antonioni as part of the background for Blow Up, the film that so evoked the era.

In the 1970s, Rice relocated to Dorset, becoming a sheep farmer and teaching part-time at Brighton College of Art. Discovering Bronze Age artefacts on the land he worked inspired him to take a new artistic direction and focus on landscape and habitation. The 1980s saw him renovate a run-down fifteen-century house and produce artworks centred around a strong sense of place.

Artists are often seen as existing in something of a vacuum, concentrating on nurturing their personal vision, whatever that happens to be. Brian Rice contradicts this and his work almost defiantly refuses to be categorised. Some of his earlier works use scraperboard and a style that seems almost to be looking backwards – maybe that sense of the past and of roots was always there. Later, he develops into styles that mirror their own times and certainly echo what is perhaps more familiar from what Hockney was doing at the time. Other work falls relatively neatly into Pop Art and there is also plenty of abstraction and the use of geometric shapes. Given the course of Rice’s life, it comes as something of a surprise that recent pieces do not have the reflective quality that sometimes pervades creative workers as they get older. In Rice’s case, change seems to have inspired renewed creativity and a desire to explore new avenues.

Inevitably in a book of this kind the illustrations are quite small – there are nearly a thousand of them to fit in. It is a tribute to the quality of the production, though, that this doesn’t leave the reader feeling short-changed. Just sometimes, both quantity and quality can be accommodated at the same time.

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