Trevor Winkfield, the Conceptual Collagist
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Trevor Winkfield, whose solo exhibition in the main space at Tibor de Nagy complements the project room display of John Ashbery’s collages, makes paintings that betray a collage mentality while totally eschewing its touch. His paintings are seamless, uniform, and automobile-like in their finesse. But his vocabulary is intimately informed by the aesthetic of collage, bringing together both commonplace and esoteric objects in startling and suggestive juxtapositions. He could be called a conceptual collagist, cutting and pasting within the mind’s eye.
Mr. Winkfield is a natural double act with Mr. Ashbery as, since 1988, works by this expatriate Yorkshireman have habitually graced the covers of the poet’s new publications and reissues. His style is unmistakable: high-contrast, high-chroma arrangement of forms of radically contrastive scale and source executed with the clean precision of a graphic designer. He has closely associated with the poetry world, and twice instigated small but influential journals for poetry: Juilliard, in the late 1960s, and the Sienese Shredder, since 2007.
Mr. Winkfield’s aesthetic is essentially heraldic: Objects are flattened to the extent that they are not allowed to threaten the two-dimensional picture surface, even as they busily overlay one another. “At the Gates” (2004) is a triptych that sees areas of pink, yellow, rust, and grays and blue occupy distinct but interconnected zones, and objects as diverse as a metronome, a fan surmounting fluted columns, and a shattered vase hold court in each of them.
While flatness of overall design is strictly policed, the shadows of individual forms are almost scientifically rendered. Also undermining heraldry is the nonhierarchical nature of his compositions, the all-overness of his spreads recalling abstract, Color Field painting as much as any historic source.
His artistic origins are actually firmly rooted in a European pop sensibility, and thus at once formal and literary. He trained at London’s Royal College of Art where students a few years ahead of him included Peter Phillips and Patrick Caulfield, whose precisionist advertising style set the scene for British Pop art, Eduardo Paolozzi, Valerio Adami, and the American Richard Lindner.
In a way, Mr. Winkfield suffers from the fact that his work reproduces too well. He draws on graphic design, and provides graphic-design solutions for book covers. But the experience of his paintings in the flesh underlines the richness of his saturated color and the vitality of his paint application, neat for sure but by no means mechanical.