© The Artist


Alan Gouk (1939 – 2024)


116.8 X 147.3
Accession number


‘Eyelash Swoop’ is really one of the ‘Cretan’ paintings, which form a series only retrospect. They were not conceived as a series but afterwards recognised that they were all part of the same impulse.  The titles came later still.


By 1980-81, I began to feel that I had reached something of an impasse in pursuit of an emphatically layered and physically solid surface, which reared up like an impenetrable cliff face.  I felt that there was a lot of colour locked into these layers of paint, waiting to be released. Somehow I had to let go, to give way, to loosen my grip on this emphatic, driven layering, even if meant becoming less original in some ways, and closer to painter friends like Patrick Heron and Fred Pollack.  At the same time I had the urge to dispel the pressure which tended to drive towards the centre of the picture.  I wanted to stretch out, away from the centre, as in the gesture of throwing one’s arms open, wide apart, and I began to do paintings as wide as my studio would permit, stretching the drawing out towards the limit of the frame, and loosening it at the same time.  My studio is only some 16 feet wide, and the paintings were just short of that.  The Tate’s ‘Cretan Premonition’ is the culmination of the series.


There was one other factor I wanted to introduce real circumstances of light into the colour of the paintings, as of sunlight falling on the surface of the canvas, a natural luminosity in the colour.


This was another kind of letting go, or letting in something which had previously been debarred.  It is this that gives rise to the two-fold sensation in ‘Eyelash Swoop’ of a sequence of surface bands which open up to let space through them.  It flirts rather dangerously with what for dedicated abstractionists is the dreaded ‘naturalistic spaces’, but I think this balance is just held in favour of its unity as a picture.


Letter from the artist dated 28 December 1987