Winston Branch was born in Castries, St Lucia, in 1947 and moved to London aged 12, eventually studying at the Slade School of Art. He later won a scholarship to study at the British School at Rome from 1971 to 1972. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978, and has been exhibited abundantly and internationally.
Branch’s painting, almost exclusively in acrylics, can be seen to be in the style of Abstract or Lyrical Expressionism, creating richly coloured planes of paint that form their own hazy atmosphere. Paint is splattered, flicked or spread in a frenzy of electric colour or earthy tones. It is layered to create depths that are then highlighted in equal measure to form landscapes of paints that extend both across and deep into the canvas. Forms occasionally merge into something figurative.
Yellow Sky (1970) depicts a wash of inky-blue paint bisected by a slice of bright yellow paint. Central to where the two layers meet, a fissure of different coloured paints rise like plates of the earth pushed together. A viewer may see a lagoon, a mountain, a searing sunlit sky or focus on the slices of colour laid boldly next to each other, informing the entire painting while remaining rich individual depictions of colour.
While Branch is known for his abstract work, No Colour Bar features two of his more figurative works, West Indian (1973) and Ju Ju Bird (1976). West Indian is a portrait of a man in a pink bobbled hat and a brown coat against a configuration of coloured slices. This figure merges out of an abstracted background, a confident step forward from a kaleidoscope that almost seems to form a doorway, suggestive of colour field painting.
Ju Ju Bird builds up a space of vibrant green set against uninterrupted black and deep browns. At the centre of these colours is the animalistic suggestion of a beak, a wing, and a claw. Simple lines and symbols are layered over the top of these portions of paint and around the bird, creating an ambiguous, almost hieroglyphic, symbolic display of nature set against a flurry of movement and colour.
Winston Branch’s work can be found public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in Sāo Paolo, Brazil, Brooklyn Museum, New York and Victorian and Albert Museum and the British Museum, London.
Winston Branch (b. 1947)
West Indian, 1973
This portrait of a Caribbean man, casually dressed, amid colourful block shapes, is an exception to the artist’s usually non-figurative work.
Oil on canvas
On loan from Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby Borough Council