Beth Letain, Winkles, 2018, oil on canvas 74 3⁄4 × 67".

Beth Letain, Winkles, 2018, oil on canvas 74 3⁄4 × 67".

Beth Letain


The eight paintings in Beth Letain’s first London show, “Signal Hill,” came as a breath of fresh air to those of us caught between the hectic chaos of the Royal Academy of Arts’s ever-popular salon-style summer exhibition and the London art world’s dominant ethos of post-YBA knowingness. The appeal of the Berlin-based Canadian’s stripped-back abstractions lies in their breezy sense of touch and rhythm delivered on a majestic scale.

Letain constructed these large works—the smallest measures more than six by five and a half feet, while the biggest is about eleven and a half by ten feet—by laying down numerous layers of custom-made gesso, followed by what appear to be relatively few quick lashings of oil paint, high in pigment. That combination—dense gesso ground and thin liquid paint—sped up the absorption of the chromatically rich oil and probably reified the brushstrokes

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