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’I’m quite convinced over the years George will be looked upon as one of the great painters bridging the 20th and 21st Centuries’’’- Anthony J. Lester (Art Critic)
This unassuming artwork created by Large in 1983 represents a halfway milestone in his life and professional career as an artist. Whilst seemingly naïve in comparison to his later works of the ’90s and ’00s, this important work offers the art market a great chance to better contextualise his entire oeuvre, allowing for an intimate chance at learning more about his ambition to refine his signature technique, partially through honing his brilliant sense of observation and ever-increasing desire to express himself in a manner different to those who originally inspired him.
‘Men at Work’ portrays three aged fisherfolk as the protagonists of the artwork in a traditional Maltese seaside setting as can be appreciated by the ‘Luzzu’ fishing boats and the nostalgic blue metal railings -just above the main plane of the artwork.
The artwork’s narrative is a curious one in that the subject of fishermen and fishing vessels was a recurring theme for Large, both in his home country and in Malta, however, in this work, the artist portrays a sleeping fisherman in the background which is at odds with the title of the artwork and the nature of the ever industrious fisherman archetype. Known for having a quirky sense of humour Large might be alluding to the Maltese proverb that goes: min jorqod ma jaqbadx hut-those who sleep do not catch fish; alternatively, it might be simply representing a post-fishing expedition routine. Unlike Large’s much later ‘Fishermen at Marsaxlokk’ artwork donated to the Maritime Museum in 2018, these figures are not as fit and dynamic as those posing in the aforementioned work; instead, they are detached, absorbed in action and far more truthful to life.
Sadly, Large’s 80’s collection of artworks proves to be harder for the untrained eye to appreciate as opposed to his more recent works; this is because the viewer might assess the artwork as a rudimentary attempt at reinterpreting a scene they are all too familiar with by substituting reality for seemingly nonsensical blocks and swathes of colours and shapes that are often associated with children’s artworks. To counteract this, the author guides you to observe the central fisherman’s left hand as it grips the cart’s handle, bearing in mind the medium’s tricky properties such as its fast-drying nature -allowing little to no mistakes to be made, and its fluidity- making it tough to control; now observe the crisp detail captured in this unassuming section of the artwork showing off the artist’s perfect understanding of form, light and shade.
The preparatory pencil markings visible in the lower left quadrant are further testament to the artist’s diligent and thought-out work process. His choice of colours is unsuspectingly genius in that they evoke the principle of complementary colours, thereby placing primary and secondary colours next to each other to provide the strongest contrast possible- see the turquoise nylon fishing line set against the orange buoy or the bright blue boat outline against the red wooden slats of the boat’s interior as an example. This not only makes the image seem more vibrant but also makes it harder for the eye to focus on one spot-adding to the busy-ness of the artwork (in his later works the artist accentuates this tactic by using up every bit of the artwork’s plane, making the composition purposely claustrophobic whilst increasing his attention to detail by refining the colours and shapes that define the subject’s form).
This artwork varies from the 2000’s collections in that the figures have not yet become the exclusive focus of the narrative and the overall composition is far less dramatic, distorted and contoured, instead, its primary focus is far more genuine as the artist tries and succeeds in capturing the spirit of locality and his subjects; it shows Large as an enquiring artist as well as an ex-pat with a genuine passion for the Mediterranean way of life and culture.
About the Artist:
George Large is a painter of watercolour and oil, born in Islington, London in 1936. He studied at Hornsey College of Art (1958-63), with teachers including Maurice de Sausmarez, John Titchell and Alfred Daniels. Large spent some time in the display department of Simpson’s, Piccadilly, was part-time at Hornsey College of Art, and then head of the department at St Julian Comprehensive School in St Albans.
Large was the winner of the Windsor & Newton award in 1989; he won the Llewellyn Alexander and St Cuthbert’s Mill Awards in 1999; and the Arts Club Award in 2003. He had a solo show at Mall Galleries in 1980, and later one-man exhibitions including Duncan Campbell Fine Art from 1990. In 2000, Goldmark Gallery showed Large’s work at the same time as releasing its documentary film on him: ‘Trust Me I’m An Artist’. There were further Goldmark George Large exhibitions in 2003 and 2015. Large was also commissioned with completing a mural for British Rail for the King’s Cross Thameslink Station, UK. Large is hailed as a senior member of the Royal Society of British Artists and was also an elected member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours.
In recent years Large has lived and painted in Rutland and Malta, and his work is held in important public and private collections including the National Gallery (UK) and the British Consulate in Malta.
- Artnet Price Database Report
- Large in Malta George Large R.I. R.B.A. Hardcover – 1 Jan. 2009 by Peter Apap Bologna
- Catalogue for George Large’s exhibition at Goldmark Gallery in September 2015
Men at Work by George Large
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