Between 1951 and 1957 Mann undertook an explosive programme of work, representing ordinary objects with boldly outlined shadows and bright, sometimes luminous colour. A dazzling interjection in the subdued art world of fifties Britain, this was Mann’s most original period and it stands as his lasting contribution to the history of twentieth-century painting. These works have never been displayed together and the exhibition provides an insight into the artist’s radiant formal language.
Though Mann spent the rest of his career painting natural light, the solid shadow paintings were made under the glow of an electric lightbulb. After moving into a lightless flat at Old Street, Mann’s pictures began to course with unnatural, electric colour. For the first time, he noticed the line that joins together an object with the shadow it casts. He depicted this line in his paintings as if it were itself a solid object, laid on the table before him beside apples and Pelican paperbacks.
Mann's still lifes are closely related to the later work of Patrick Caulfield, Michael Craig-Martin, Euan Uglow, and the American pop artist John Wesley. His paintings seem to prefigure their colourful, boldly delineated style. It is a testament to his single-minded creativity that Mann arrived at this style of bold outlines at least a decade before these younger artists.