Anthony Curtis has painted and sculpted since 1948, alongside teaching in secondary art education. In 1982 he retired from teaching at Cressex School, High Wycombe, where, in 1964, he had founded and headed the Visual Arts Department.
Since then he had pursued a career in painting, using oils, water colour and gouache and working in his purpose built studio since 2010. He studied at Loughborough and Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, where he worked under Peter Potworowski, William Scott, Kenneth Armitage, Peter Lanyon and Brian Wynter. He was also very friendly with Paul Feiler, and in later years with Stanley Spencer, Donald Hamilton Fraser and Terry Frost.
Reflecting on the nature of his work, Anthony says:
“Although I have my preferred artists from Western and other traditions, my influences also lie in other areas of human endeavour and with things I know and see.
I regard our reality as ultimately a mystery. Nevertheless we are all seekers asking fundamental questions about humanity; the Who? What? Where? Are We? And perhaps Why? Our Philosophies, Religions, Arts and Sciences represent the seeker in us and I feel that beauty is the aspect common to them all.
As a lad I once resolved that I wanted my painting to be as beautiful as the music of Mozart. Another early influence was the series of short flights I embarked upon with the RAF as a cadet during WWII. This started a continuing interest in viewing our world from the air. Landscape with no horizon? Whatever next? Since those days we have seen the ultimate horizon in the disk of the Earth surveyed from space; and there can be no horizon in the vertical view of the planet surface.
Amongst my teachers at Corsham (1950-51) Bryan Wynter later stated that his work was about change; to which time is essential. Peter Lanyon made his paintings of landscape containing the totality of walks taken within his subject and later made paintings of aircraft courses over vertically observed landscapes; these are also works embodying a time element. The Tate St Ives featured both artists in retrospective shows 200-01. Peter Potworowski has asserted that his work was “…confirming the time aspect of space…” I don’t think any specific conversations on time and relativity occurred between myself and these artists, but it must have been ‘in the air’.
My own interest in time in the arts surfaced in 1953 on reading a popularising article about relativity plainly an interest already simmering in my subconscious. In brief, I believe there are time aspects embodied in the visual arts and that our everyday experience of time is qualitatively different from people who lived previously. I think this process began with rail travel (Turner!) and accelerated through the 19th-20th Centuries to date. Via TVs and computers, events happening at great distances are seen and heard simultaneously; time is annihilated.
We are amazing creatures, with a compliment of five physical senses (plus a possible sixth?) and we continue adding to our vast repositories of knowledge. We use technological extensions of ourselves to store and interpret data in a diversity of disciplines. The current frontier of human aspirations seems to be populated by scientists. Matter is explored from fundamental particles to far reaches of space and time. The structures of life are gradually being brought into focus. The mystery still deepens but there is a wealth of imagery, ways of seeing our reality to be explored.
As visual artists we are feeling led in our work, but it is a grave error to assume that no intellectual aspects exist, or that they have no place in the arts. It seems legitimate for visual artists to explore the world in the light of science. Much probing enquiry has been done; for example the space-time work of Cubism and psychological insights of surrealism. However such examples of psychological introspection as an unmade bed or a notionally “ultimate” blank canvas though, I hope considered, seem trivially impoverished. Compare such concepts with images from space which are composites from machines searching across a variety of wavelengths; combined as in Cubism they reveal stunning beauty. All possible insights are legitimate to art but in this prolific era important aspects are being neglected. Art fashion as a manipulative tool in the hands of commercially orientated forces creates cult of personality in place of joyfully serious scrutiny and thought.
My own art is one of ambiguity and simultaneity. Ambiguities of scale and image allow room for the viewer’s life experience to come to bear. Simultaneity of events and image within many pieces embody a time aspect.”
Anthony Curtis has shown extensively in the UK since 1952 and has worked in private and public collections in this country, and abroad. Key exhibitions have included one man shows at Scopas Gallery and Century Gallery, in Henley on Thames, The Bloomsbury Gallery, London and a retrospective at the Wooburn Festival, in 1992.
Prestigious group shows include The Redfern Gallery, London, in 1952, The Daily express Young Painters London, in 1955 and an Arts Council Touring Exhibition of stained glass in 1961. He has shown in a number of places in the UK including the Royal Watercolour Society, London and Blegrave Gallery, St Ives. The Bloomsbury show enabled him to spend six months in Austrailia, The resulting works filled the Winterstoke Gallery at the RWA’s Seven Academicians Exhibition, in 1995.