SL: I get the impression that he was trying many different styles.
NICHOLAS HORSFIELD: Yes, and that is very right and proper for a lively-minded student. He is keeping his eyes open for anything that stirs his imagination. His private work such as the sketches he made of a rubbish dump in Garston was very fine, but I never saw them until after his death. I was teaching composition and I was only aware of his work in college. I had my criticisms – I felt that his tonality was brittle – but I could never get my point across to him. He got a better understanding from Arthur Ballard and possibly Charlie Burton, who was young and not as fuddy-duddy as me.
SL: What do you mean by ‘his tonality was brittle’?
NICHOLAS HORSFIELD: The exact perception of tone across the canvas is the key to the balance and the unity of the whole picture. Stuart did not appreciate how one tone, which may represent part of a form or may be completely abstract, can take on the feeling of space and have a harmonious relationship with another. I felt his work was a little jagged, which, indeed, was his personality.
SL: Did you have many discussions and arguments about schools of painting with him?
NICHOLAS HORSFIELD: Not arguments, but discussions certainly and very amiable. The eruption of American abstract expressionism left me confused but it offered him and other students a lifeline. Every artist becomes middleaged at some time and needs to recognise it, and I was not able to comprehend artists like Jackson Pollock who was coming up. In this respect, Stuart was liberated, by Arthur Ballard. Arthur had found for himself a non-figurative style in which he produced some very exceptional work and he was able to impart his enthusiasm for this to Stuart, who took it up on large scale.
SL: And Stuart was also influenced by his friend, John Lennon, who had been a rebel at Quarry Bank High School and now was a rebel at the Art College.
NICHOLAS HORSFIELD: There are rebellious spirits in any college of art and that is a very good thing. I had to teach Lennon – or, rather, try to teach Lennon – objective life drawing. Life drawing is an essential core discipline in learning to be a painter. It involves observation and analysis, feeling and expression, and this was sheer nonsense to John Lennon, who couldn’t care a button. I was never able to get him to concentrate in studying the models and I soon gave up trying. I would leave Lennon to doodle on his own until he chose to walk out. The academic discipline was completely meaningless to a person such as John Lennon and indeed, the understanding of painting in the proper sense was meaningless to him. I remember after a boring art history lecture by me, I went to pack up the projector and found John Lennon stretched out sound asleep with several bottles around him.