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RECENT PAINTINGS FROM THE SIXTIES

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David Sweet
19th April - 18th May 2002
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Simple art, complex society by Vic Allen (from ARTSCENE, May 2002)

We'd assumed it was an ironic title: 'Recent Paintings From the Sixties'. But David Sweet, the Beverley-based artist who works at Bradford Metroplitan University and who is exhibiting in Hulls RED Gallery this month put us right.

"It's not ironic," he says, rather an attempt to offer another approach to what essentially a one-man show of contemporary work. "There's that awful quote 'if you remember the 60's, then you weren't there'. It isn't true. I didn't take any drugs then, and I remember them well."

Sweet argues that the 'hippy surge' of the very late 60's (embodied in the 'awful' Freeserve ads) 'tended to rewrite the whole era': "The 60s were much more hard-edged and complex. The working class were empowered by the 60's, which was very important from my point of view... all that nostalgia of the 50's takes away the idea of how horrible THEY really were."

Which is a social point. But the aesthetic point, says Sweet (who followed Hockney into the Royal College and was there while Peter Blake was snipping up magazines for the cover of the 'Sergeant Pepper' album) is no less forgotten. "The idea that paintings can be quite simple is one of the lessons of the 60's: they don't have to be harsh, they can even be beautiful."

Sweet's broadly geometric acrylics remain influenced, then by the release he felt from figurative and anecdotal painting in the work of (popularly forgotten) American artists such as Frank Stell and Ken Nowland.

"There are young artists still dealing with that, perhaps from a more ironic perspective," he suggests. "I think we all are in the 60's still. People have only pretended to go forward, people have got confused about progress and even cynical about it. They can't get excited about it. In the 60's you COULD get excited."

We make the mistake of calling him a hippy. "I might be sad," he points out "but I'm not a hippy. More 'Please, Please Me' than 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'!"

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