Gordon Onslow Ford
About The Artist
English-born artist Gordon Onslow Ford (1912-2003) is remembered as an important member of the 1930s surrealist group centered around André Breton, who gathered at Les Deux Magots in Paris.
Born to a family of artists, Onslow Ford joined the British navy and traveled widely from a young age. He visited Paris during this time and eventually moved to the city in 1937. There he came into contact with the leading artists of the day, studying briefly under Fernand Leger and going on to befriend André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and Max Ernst. He was also a regular visitor to the studios of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Giorgio de Chirico. Onslow Ford then moved to New York where he presented a series of influential lectures on Surrealism in 1941, attended by leading Abstract Expressionists such as Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock. He later relocated to California, where his work from the 1950s began to be shaped by his interest in Buddhism and Japanese zen calligraphy.
Onslow Ford’s painting is characterized by a fascination with cosmic landscapes, populated by graphic lines, astral forms and glowing light. He devised an approach he named “coulage,” in which he poured paint directly on the canvas, before moving it around to generate myriad patterns. Onslow Ford invented this method years before Pollock’s renowned drip technique. Later in life, Onslow Ford continued to espouse Breton's concept of "automatic writing", or automatism. He wrote a statement of his own theory and practice of painting based on escaping the strictures of so-called logic, which included the following definition: "Spontaneous painting comes about through cultivating the open mind and painting just faster than rational thought, just faster than the painter's speed of consciousness, while giving full attention to what is appearing in the painting as it appears.”
His works are held in the collections of the Tate Britain, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“Gordon Onslow Ford: Surrealist painter on a quest for the inner worlds of life and art.” The Guardian. M. McNay. Nov, 24 2003. Web. Sept 27, 2016.