Contemporaneity: William Gear

William Gear, Tree, 1947 (Copyright the Artist’s Estate. Photographer Antonia Re
William Gear, Tree, 1947 (Copyright the Artist’s Estate. Photographer Antonia Reeve. Image City Art Centre, Edinburgh)

Robin Greenwood reviews several shows of work by William Gear: William Gear: the Painter that Time Forgot at the Towner Gallery Eastbourne (through September 27) and at City Art Centre, Edinburgh, 24 (through February 14), A Radical View: William Gear as Curator 1958 -1964 at the Towner (through August 31), and William Gear: A Centenary Exhibition at the Redfern Gallery, London (through September 5).

Noting that some of Gear's work bears resemblance to some contemporary abstract painting, Greenwood observes: "Gear does not do ‘casual’ or ‘provisional’ or even gestural. In fact, it is hard to find in all of his oeuvre a genuinely relaxed-looking moment, when the assumed dignities and diligences of being a fine-art easel painter are abandoned in favour of something more loose and instinctive. Even the more contingent of his images look pondered and preened, fully worked-up and over-worked... I get the sense that he strongly aspired to get his paintings to summon some kind of particularised feeling – a sense of a landscape, perhaps, which he himself had felt and experienced, and which he desired to capture, and which would be built into the work by him, rather than casually attributed at a later date by the viewer. I admire the specificness and determination of that vision, but I think the results fall short, for reasons both of his inflexible sensibility, and for the crude state of development in abstract painting at that time..."