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Obituary: Richard Allen

Robert Tilling
Tuesday 30 March 1999 23:02 BST

RICHARD ALLEN was an abstract painter and printmaker who also found time to teach and work as an exhibition and art consultant, among many other interests.

During the 1960s he was primarily associated with the Op Art Movement and became part of Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgeley's Match Shed artists co-operative in London. In 1971 he became a member of the Matrix Group organised by Malcolm Hughes, which included the artists Geoffrey Steele and Michael Kidner. Allen exhibited extensively from this time and his work was selected, among others, by Nicholas Serota for his "Systems Art" show at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1972 and in "British Painting '74" at the Hayward Gallery. Allen was one of the first Op artists to show at the new Angela Flowers Gallery in 1971 and an exhibition of his recent paintings will be shown there in May this year.

His paintings of this period were often large and brightly coloured but during the mid-Seventies he abandoned colour to work primarily in monochrome and using a grid structure, with charcoal, cellulose acetate and wax on canvas and paper. His most recent works showed a return to limited colour and oil paint.

His last series of paintings, entitled White Paintings 1995-1997, have a serene and peaceful quality. A number of these were included in a recent large retrospective of his work, "Richard Allen 1957-97", held at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, last October, which will also be shown in May at the Jersey Arts Centre in St Helier.

In all he held 21 solo exhibitions, including shows at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1975), Gallery Takagi Nogoya, in Japan (1982), Exeter University (1985) and the Printworks Gallery, Chicago (1998). His work has been widely exhibited and examples can be found in many leading collections, among them those of the Arts Council, of the British Council, the National Academy of Art, New Delhi and the Museums of Modern Art of Lodz, Skopje and Florida; and the universities of Hull and Aberystwyth.

Allen was born in Worcester in 1933. After leaving school he worked for a while in agriculture, and during 1952-54 underwent National Service in Korea and Japan. In 1955 he entered the Worcester School of Art and in 1957 he attended Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, where he gained his Art Teacher's Certificate in 1960. While at Corsham, which was then led by the inspirational principal Clifford Ellis, Allen was taught by some of the leading abstract artists of the day, including Adrian Heath and Howard Hodgkin.

During 1961 he studied in Italy on an Italian government scholarship and in April that year married Evelyn Laurens, a fellow student at Corsham. By 1964 he was teaching full-time at Croydon College of Art alongside the abstract artists Bridget Riley and John Hoyland. In 1965 he left Croydon and in 1966 he was a Commonwealth Fine Art Scholar in India. The following year he was awarded a Fine Art Fellowship at Sussex University.

After 1967 Allen decided that he did not wish to teach full-time but became a popular and influential visiting lecturer at many colleges and universities until the end of his life, including the Royal College of Art, the Slade School, Reading, Aberystwyth and the London School of Printing.

He also worked as an exhibition consultant and designer, and will be particularly remembered for his successful series of exhibitions at the Polytechnic of Central London, Regent Street, which included paintings, photography and prints by many important artists. While living in Jersey between 1979 and 1991 he did a great deal to help promote local contemporary art. He was involved in advising the Jersey International Arts Festival and one of his design projects was to produce a new sign system for the Jersey Wildlife Foundation.

In 1991 Allen moved to Whitney-on-Wye, Herefordshire and started to teach at the University of Wales School of Art, Aberystwyth, and during this time he joined the Teaching Quality Assessment panel of the HEFCW (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales).

Richard Allen was a gentle and kind man, a devoted father and husband. He was at his happiest working in his studio with his wife Eve nearby, busy in their much- loved garden. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1997; during this traumatic period Allen began to show early symptoms of motor neurone disease, which was finally diagnosed a few months after his wife's death. He moved to London last year, and spent much of his time designing work on his computer.

Richard Allen, artist, teacher, designer and art consultant: born Worcester 8 February 1933; married 1961 Evelyn Laurens (died 1997; two daughters); died London 9 February 1999.

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