Bourne Fine Art, London; Private collection
Eastwood, Carlo, Colin Middleton - A Millennium Appreciation, Eastwood Gallery, Belfast, 2000, p. 12, illustrated p.61
Colin Middleton had an overwhelming thirst to explore and experiment with the possibilities in painting and, although aged in his mid-forties at the time of his retrospective in the Victor Waddington Galleries Middleton's style showed no signs of consistency but rather demonstrated a feverish impatience to investigate evermore styles. External forces were constantly directing his journey and he freely offered himself as a vessel through which they could pass and assimilate. Pat Murphy in interview with Middleton in December 1980 for the Irish Times asked the artist why it was that he adopted so many styles during his career. In response Middleton revealed, “…when someone opens a door you go through it."
Thus, the forces of the 'isims' had free reign on his undecided mind. Magritte, Miró and Dalí were to prove lasting influences on his style in the 1930s and 1940s and their impact would have a lasting effect which would manifest itself in works such as, U.F.O'.s, some forty years later. Although not immediately obvious, U.F.O.'s shares a link with Middlton's prior works in that it too is rooted in the idea of place. The strata in the foreground are reminiscent of his earlier landscapes of bogs or perhaps the beaches in Newcastle Co. Down while the grainy texture of the harsh plane demonstrates a similar technique of paint application seen in Important Lady with Attendant (1976) (illustrated p.53, Eastwood). This precise execution with its polished finish and suggestion of texture is indication of the lasting effect of his time as a damask designer. The organic nature of the landscape and the idea of place and environment are balanced by the menacing presence of the smooth, structured objects suspended in the expanse of the sky.
In conversation with Ciarán Carthy (Sunday Independent) in 1980 the artist offered by way of explanation that he needed, "...an organic reference, whether it be landscape or figure" and that he saw himself as a "spiritual medium [with an] ever present conflict between reason and intuition." These veins which channelled Middleton's creativity were what marked him out as an artist. He was the Irish answer to Surrealism, opening the floodgates to audiences to explore foreign and imagined landscapes. It is perhaps interesting also to note that there are in fact records of an unidentified object sighted in Belfast in 1972. Middleton, known to react to actual events, may have been faced at this juncture in his career with an extraordinary real-life stimulus to charge his canvas with yet another conflict between reason and intuition.
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