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painter and printmaker. In the early 1950s
Turnbull was involved with the Independent
group at the ICA, whose lectures on recent
scientific, sociological and philosophical
ideas interested Turnbull.
Turnbull's early work
used simple linear elements as basic signs,
often implying play and movement. These
were followed by paintings in which the
motion of groups of figures was suggested
by gestural line. The motif of the head
as an object became predominant in the mid
1950s. Paintings from the period 1955 to
1957 treated the same motif with a calligraphic
handling or heavy use of the palette-knife.
Until 1963 his sculpture incorporated several
parts in contrasting traditional materials,
such as bronze, stone and wood.
He began to expunge
vestigial imagery. At first he relied on
almost monochromatic, heavily worked surfaces,
followed by thinly painted colour fields.
These were either vertically bisected or
incorporated cropped discs that implied
an extension beyond the canvas. Later paintings
comprised quantities of colour accented
by occasional diagonals or bands clinging
to the edge.
steel sculptures from 1963 to 1968 often
involved irregular zigzag or wavy forms.
Turnbull's three-dimensional work corresponded
with the concerns of the American Minimalists
in its repetition or permutation of ready-made
geometric units and concern for different
responses to identical forms when set in
a new context. Turnbull returned c. 1977
to small, modelled sculptures. These later
works, while evoking his sculpture of the
1950s, were more intimate and less dauntingly
Sculpture and Painting (exh. cat., intro.
R. Morphet; London, Tate, 1973)
William Turnbull (exh.
cat., London, Waddington Gals, 1981)