Quiet Conversations: Ken Kiff / James Hillman

Ken Kiff / James Hillman

Ken Kiff / James Hillman

Ken Kiff RA (1935-2001). A painter, printmaker and art college teacher, Ken Kiff is perhaps best known for The Sequence, a symphonic series of almost 200 images that constitues a single work. Seen by many as an ‘outlier’ for much of his life, he is arguably one of the most significant English painters of the second half of the twentieth century. Number 193 of The Sequence, Quiet Meeting (unfinished), suggested the overall title for this work and the two larger figures in this image are borrowed directly from it.  

James Hillman (1926-2011). An analytical psychologist, writer and public speaker, James Hillman was a principle instigator of archetypal psychology, a polytheistic ‘southern’ psychological approach that contests ‘northern’ orthodoxies, both cultural and psychological, as too literal, materialistic, and reductive. His primary concern was to return psyche to its rightful place in psychology and culture through attention to imagination, metaphor, art, and myth. 


At the end of the last century I worked closely with Ken Kiff to create the first publication on his work: Ken Kiff’s Sequence(1999). Prior to and during the pandemic I have been working with Anna Kiff (the artist’s daughter and Trustee of his estate) and the painter Dr James Fisher on a major exhibition of Kiff’s paintings and prints for the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol.  

I was introduced to James Hillman’s writing in my late teens via a short piece on the painter Cecil Collins, given to me by the poet Kathleen Raine. I have read his writing assiduously ever since. I once had coffee with him after a day seminar he had given in Bristol and was deeply impressed by his friendliness. In particular I remember him reassuring me that, while my teaching commitments might preclude developing my image-making as I might wish, like Hans Hoffman I might yet make my best work towards the end of my life.