Bill Jacklin RA, (1943-), Ice Rink, 3pm, oil on canvas, 1992
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

Object of the Month - November 2015


Bill Jacklin RA, Ice Rink, 3pm, oil on canvas, 1992

Through his paintings, drawings and engravings, Bill Jacklin has obsessively pursued an exploration of light and darkness in all its possible forms.

Jacklin was raised in London and studied graphics at Walthamstow School of Art (1960-61), before studying painting at the Royal College of Art in 1964. He worked as a graphic designer at Studio Seven in Holborn (1961-62). In 1962 he returned to Walthamstow to study painting and subsequently went on to the Royal College of Art from 1964 to 1967. His commissioned projects include the Bank of England, De Beers and the Ivy Restaurant, London.

Jacklin began working in abstraction, but after moving from London to New York in 1985, the sights and scenes of his new environment had a transformative effect on his subject matter; from still-life and interiors, his focus turned on the crowds and constantly changing spaces of the scenery he observed around him.

His Diploma work, The Ice Rink, 3pm, is typical of his scenes presenting a large crowd from a distanced perspective, observed in the midst of movement. The ice skaters are shown as swirl of dark forms against the bright ice and light, giving the impression of a repeating pattern. Yet they retain their identification as figures in the depiction of clothes and suggestion of gestures and poses. This depiction of crowds identifiable as both abstract marks of a pattern and individual figurative forms simultaneously is a characteristic feature of Jacklin's aerial scenes.

Jacklin has said that in his opinion 'any good painting is an abstraction because, in the end, the negative and the positive spaces are all there is. That's the surface. In my case, it's the light and the object, and one is interacting against the other.'

In his scenes of skaters on ice rinks, Jacklin comments 'one of the instigating forces of all that was the flow of the geometry.' Jacklin's observation of the city is a mediation of the constant movement and activity that occurs and the way capturing such scenes draws our attention to the phenomenon of observing and the accompanying sense of time passing.
'... the kind of feeling that you have when you look up at the night sky about the fullness of time and life passing. I think in these paintings there's a certain element of that. Everyone's racing around, whether its the shadows, the people or the clouds. They are like a frieze of something that I've seen in the city'.