signed, inscribed & dated 1963 verso
oil on canvas
152.5 x 127 cms (60 x 50 ins)
ProvenanceWaddington Galleries, London
LiteraturePainted at the height of his career, December 1963 exemplifies Hilton’s continuing ambivalence toward abstraction. Pushing through preconceptions of painting being either non-referential, and therefore abstract, or figurative, Hilton prefers to concentrate on the degrees in which figuration can be implied within what is essentially painterly abstraction.
Conceived in three integrated but structurally separate parts; The swathe of elliptical grey white paint in the upper third contrasts with the yellow ground beneath, the rectangular form located centrally acts as a focal point for the eye, and the black lines in the bottom third offer an optical barrier. Frustratingly familiar, the ellipse could reference sun, the black lines, a balcony or bed head. Hilton’s vocabulary of earthy hues, developed whilst in Cornwall to capture the rawness of St Just’s neighbouring coastline, successfully translate to December 1963. Its colouration, together with unfinished and bleeding margins, and vigorous incised areas revoke sympathetic aesthetic readings. This painting is far from being decorative, or what Greenberg slanderously called tasteful. Challenging on many levels, and not just formally, December 1963 quizzically investigates the very nature of painting.