RCA Society

Jeff Sawtell remembers... John Latham

23 February 1921 - 1 January 2006

See more photos of reception for John Latham at Tate Britain

If you haven't heard already, John Latham flatlined on Sunday (January 1). Not only a friend and comrade, John was important to me as he was to many artists and other cultural combatants who came in contact with him and his work.

A brilliant mind, baffling and ornery to many, he was always stimulating, never content to produce products for productions sake, always eager to tear down barbarian barriers to understanding, ever-ready to attack cultural conventions that would have us mesmerised into thinking that art was the stuff of decoration.

Unlike many who advertised themselves as revolutionaries, no matter what you thought of his thoughts on revolution, he always asserted that those who have the audacity to call themselves artists need to realise they have a responsibility not only to communicate, but to explore, to understand and to dare to venture into the unknown.

burning a skoob
in mourning memory
the ashes drifting
passing on the wind
forming and reforming
they settled in a pyre
shifting uneasily
not stable nor solid
a phoenix ready-rising