Leon Kossoff, 'King’s Cross Building Site Early Days', 2003. Charcoal on paper. 80 x 70 cm. Leon Kossoff has been drawings and painting scenes of London in the same frenetic, expressionistic style for more than six decades. But looking at his latest works in the catalogue for his new show at Annely Juda Fine Art, there is no sense that his recent pieces are in any way anachronistic. Characterised by lively cross-hatches in charcoal and rough-and-ready impasto in oil, Kossoff’s aesthetic reflects a restless energy that is as present in the city today as any period after the war.
The exhibition features 10 paintings and over 90 works on paper, representing the largest ever of show of the British artist’s drawings. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing in person his new series of works on paper of Arnold Circus, as I work in an office on this East End roundabout, in an area famous for its redbrick social housing that, back in 1900, was the first of its kind.
Leon Kossoff, 'Arnold Circus', 2008-10. charcoal and pastel on paper. 60 x 51.5 cm. Kossoff’s lines capture the whirl of cyclists as they zoom around the road, the sway of trees in the wind, the vertices of the temple-like bandstand that sits in the circus’s centre. But he also employs pastel to represent the colours of the sky, leaves and buildings – in particular the beautiful, warm red of the brick that is everywhere one looks.
Elsewhere in the exhibition visitors will be taken on a tour of London over half a century, visiting a post-war building site next to St Pauls (1954), in a drawing of doomy blacks and greys; a 1970s swimming pool, in which yellow figures swarm for space like termites in a nest; and the rush hour at Kilburn Underground Station in the 1980s, where faceless commuters pass each other, as addled a ever by the journey. For Londoners who love London in all its manifestations, this show will be a must.
- Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes is at Annely Juda Fine Art, 8 May-6 July
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine