PROUST, TIME AND ONE PAINTER'S EXPERIENCE

Speaker: Derek Southall 24 Feb. '98

Derek Southall is a distinguished painter who started his career in London in 1950 and is now living in Somerset. His work was exhibited at the Tate and it is represented in several other national collections. In the mid 70's, he was an Artist in Residence at Yale. The Victoria Gallery in Bath mounted in 1993 a major exhibition of his work under the title " From Bath to Cythera" which explored his conception of his art as a journey through life.
For Southall, some experiences trigger a remembered image which can sustain him for several years. Dependence on memory and the effect of time itself on his outlook made him think of Proust, who cut himself off from society in order to deal with his earlier experience and whose great novel " In Search of Lost Time" is an attempt to give shape to it.
This was a very personal interpretation of the link between literature and visual art, profusely illustrated by Southall with his work over a period of almost half a century, with comments on his ideas, changes and turning points in his life.
There are four important ideas which sustain his work:
1) An invention that is not led by feeling is neither a real invention or real art.
2) An artist has to ask himself permission to start on something new.
3) There are important changes, but there is no single resolution in painting.
4) The last mark the painter makes is the first thing the viewer sees, as opposed to what happens with writing.
In all, this was an uniquely interesting session, which gave visual expression to some of Proust's writing through the work of a genuine artist.
(Victor Suchar)