In Sutton's studio one finds a systemic beauty and careful order in the layout of his working environment. The same aesthetic applies to his art - the restraints of a ritualistic and ordered process embedded within the sensual physicality of oil paint. Of an occasion in his studio Sutton wrote in 2007:
"Minimalist music plays in fading light. Drifting white smoke, pink, silver-grey horizon. The sound of air. Times like these are embedded in my paintings: the sound of seeing, the colour of mind, painting as frozen time."
He makes paintings on board, in contrast with his early colour field paintings on canvas from the 1970’s. Throughout his career he has also always been interested in ‘shaped paintings’ and has regularly worked on a circular format in addition to the more conventional rectangle or square. In the 1980’s he worked on multi-part units of painted shapes, the most notable of which were first shown at the Lisson Gallery in 1981.
From the 1990’s onwards his paintings presented remote and evocative abstract spaces in which to place one’s own imaginings. Their character lay captured between layer upon layer of semi-transparent oil based glazes that built up a visible history of colour and brush marks. This process gave the work a physical and an atmospheric quality but did not provide specific pictorial or geographic detail.
From around 2008 his paintings started to employ hand-painted collaged elements in addition to working directly onto the surface of a work. At the same time, the grid re-emerged as a structural element in his work. In his most recent paintings he is not using collage, preferring to paint directly onto the surface again. His new work is fed by a seemingly irrational take on life, a life that gets re-ordered within the hierarchy of the grid. The paintings have a clear history of gesture and mark but this physicality becomes ordered, restrained by the grid. His colour is intuitive and reactive, encouraging shifting patterns and rhythms that suggest a kind of visual music.
Trevor Sutton was a Senior Lecturer in Painting at Chelsea School of Art & Design from 1973 to 2000 and a Research Fellow there from 2000 to 2003. He is married to fellow artist Carol Robertson.