John Tunnard

Focal point

Focal point by John Tunnard

Artwork Detail

This painting is an interpretation of a poem by Cecil Day Lewis for a 1943 exhibition of collaborations between artists and poets, called The Four Freedoms. The relevant lines are: 'So shall our time reveal long vistas of calm and natural growth, a pattern mysterious yet lucid, for Love is the focal point of the pattern . . . ' Until 1930 Tunnard had been a textile designer and, with his wife, a printer of hand-blocked silk. He had an extensive knowledge of plant and insect life as well as of mathematical constructions and this informed his rhythmical fabric designs together with his early representational paintings. The latter were to give way to large abstract works which evoke a very modern world and a surrealist fascination with machines, architecture and metamorphosis. Although he worked in the seclusion of a Cornish fishing village, Tunnard believed that he could foresee technological shapes before they had been invented. In this painting, semi-transparent forms, some reminiscent of contemporary sculpture, become symbols of a new age as they float through an almost infinite space. The red sphere is indeed the 'focal point' - the axis of the painting's precise geometry, the vanishing point for its architectural elements. Mathematical precision is played off against elements of pure chance where the paint surface is rubbed down to reveal patterns in the layers of underpainting. (from The Guide, 2001)

Focal point
John Tunnard
Production date
oil on board
1250 x 1560 x 25 mm
Credit line
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1991
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
International Art
Display status
On display

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