Sir Terry Frost

Artist Sir Terry Frost

Alexander Maxwell

 

Last Saturday I went along to view the exhibition of work by the late abstract artist, Sir Terry Frost, at the Exchange Gallery in Penzance, Cornwall. I loved his work on display, paintings he created early in his career in the 1950s, the colours, perspective, simplicity and the thought behind it blew me away. Frost is one of those characters which life dealt a losing hand and was able to turn it around. I have always been fascinated by those who came from humble beginnings, who go on to achieve great things.

Sir Terry Frost was born on the 13th of October 1915 in the Warwickshire town of Leamington Spa . At the age of 14 he left school without any prospects in life, he was put to work in a bicycle repair shop. Eighty three years later he would be knighted and remembered, as one of the best known British artists of his generation.

 

Alexander Maxwell

 

Starting his working career fixing punctures, pumping tires and spinning wheels, he could not have had much hope for the future. Although in retrospect one is able to observe these effects in his early paintings. Spending his days surrounded by metal bikes, covered in mud, rust and smeared oil, with light piecing though small soot covered windows, casting shadows upon the oil, stained, cement floor, reflecting patterns and odd shapes for him to observe.

Following his early days in the bicycle workshop he went on to try his hand at many other careers. Such as, working in a radio factory day in and day out on a production line surrounded by small geometric components and fabricating machinery. He also had a spell in a bakery observing the metal baking tins reflecting artificial lighting, rolled dough, white flour powder and the changing colours and shape of rising bread. Much of his latter work consists of circles, something he would have experienced with a job in an aircraft factory, painting RAF roundels on fighter planes and bombers before the war.

In 1939 all that was about to change when he was drafted as a member of the Army Reserve and served in Palestine and France. Before he joined the commandoes, where he served in the Middle East and was taken prisoner in Crete. Things could not have seemed worse for the young Frost, after witnessing the horrors of war, to be sent to the POW camp of Stalag 383, Nuremberg, Germany which held around 4000 staving prisoners. During this time when all would seem lost he met and befriended Adrian Heath, the Slade-trained painter. Heath, after noticing Frost’s talent in sketching gave him drawing lessons and encouraged him to paint. Although one can imagine paint would have not been easy to come by in a POW camp, this is another effect one can see in Frosts work, his sparse use of paint.

 

Alexander Maxwell

 

Two years after his release, having spent 4 years a prisoner, in the autumn of 1947 at the age of 32, he began his studies at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, encouraged by Heath once again. While supporting his wife and himself on a merger ex-serviceman’s grant. There he began his life as a painter, which had in itself its own ups and downs to overcome. If you are interested, you can find out more about Sir Terry Frost’s life – TERRY FROST – A PAINTER’S LIFE

I take courage and strength from learning about people like Sir Terry Frost, how even in the darkest hour when all seems lost; there can be a bright dawning. This in turn helps me to carry on when I am lost and trying to understand how or why I am in the place I find myself. Though it is not until we look back can we see how diversions in the road over time can seem straight?

 

Alexander Maxwell