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'The Spirit in the Mass'--a talk by Guy Austin at the Laing Art Gallery

On 23 May, Professor Guy Austin gave a talk at the Laing Art Gallery on David Bomberg's concept of 'The Spirit in the Mass'.

This talk was given to an audience of 30 as part of the Laing's current Bomberg exhibition. It focused on Bomberg's concept of "The Spirit in the Mass", a crucial element of his painting and his teaching which is evident not just in his own work but in that of the students he taught at Borough Polytechnic from 1945 to 1953. Dismissed at the time by Pop Artists and realists alike, the "Spirit in the Mass" is finally being recognised as an important contribution to British painting in the mid and late twentieth century. Bomberg's idea has been succinctly described (by Jamie Anderson) as aiming "to ignore superfluous detail and capture the pure essence of a subject".

The talk considered examples of this trend in Bomberg's work and also in work by his students, especially perhaps his most famous student, Frank Auerbach, who explained the intuitive, gestural power of Bomberg's idea as follows: "you begin to imply a sense of mass on the paper or canvas simply because you felt it."

A painting by David Bomberg
David Bomberg, 'Last Self-Portrait' (1956)

published on: 31 May 2018