György gordon: A Retrospective

On the 6th February I made a short trip to Leeds University to visit their gallery, looking for inspiration and new artists, it was here that I found György Gordon’s work.

‘Self Portrait With window’ 1991-92

Unfortunately I was unable to take photos while I visited this exhibition at The Stanley and Audrey Burton gallery at Leeds University. so the image above is taken from “” Accessed on 13/02/2017

This was my first encounter with Gordon’s work and I was immediately struck with the unusual compositions in some of his paintings such as “Stripped Torso in a Room” and the use of light in his work, almost a subtle chiaroscuro technique, drawing attention to subject matter, and adding emotional values to the works.

Stripped Torso in a Room

I feel that parallels can be drawn on first inspection between this and the body casts of Antony Gormley. The figure is nameless (‘Torso’) and has no identity, It is isolated and lonely – The figure stares out of the image, suggesting that it may want to leave or find a way out. This figure can be related to anyone, and may depict society as it is generic and standard and we can relate it to ourselves. His work is said to depict “isolation, alienation and old age” ( After further reading we learn that this figure is inspired by a crushed German army truck driver during Gordon’s time as an ambulance man, this gives the painting a new meaning and may explain his need to escape his surroundings.

His work often features a basic and muted palette and this can be seen to represent these recurring themes in his paintings. They are often almost monotone and are made from analogous colours such as in “At Night At Home” (1991.) The deep blues here give a sense of sorrow and deep thought, the painting itself is dark and no lights are in the scene, perhaps adding to this.

His paintings have an interesting language, their build up is both made of thick and thin paint layered and seemingly removed to portray a scene. This and the melancholy, sombre feel can be seen in ‘Asleep II’ in addition to this, so can the analogous colour palettes that I have already mentioned.

Asleep II

“The self-portrait was a regular motif in Gordon’s work. Speaking of Flattened Self Portrait (1971), in which he presented himself as dead, he said: “Here I was associating immigration with death: changing your home life, as I did, is a sort of death.”

The paintings were bleak, and if the violence of the earlier work was exchanged, in the later 1970s, for a more static, muted and monochromatic approach, it was the silence of an existentialist hell from which his figures were unable to escape. Homage To Kafka: The Trial (1982-83) was the big set-piece of this period, but it is the extraordinary paintings of single figures caught in some sort of half-life, such as Woman With Chair (1980-81), that remain in the mind.”

Gibson, R. (2005) György Gordon. Available at: (Accessed: 13 February 2017).


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