Ken and Iliassa Sequin, c. 1976.
Ken and Iliassa Sequin, c. 1976.



Paintings by Ken Sequin / Words by Iliassa Sequin


Poetry book launch & Private View

Thursday 29 February, 6-8

At England & Co’s Project Space, 2A Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London W1S 3DP.

Exhibition open: Friday & Saturday, 1 & 2 March, 11–5; Sunday 3 March, 12–4

England & Co announce a special event at our project space celebrating two new books by the late poet, Iliassa Sequin (1938-2019), accompanied by an exhibition of paintings by Ken Sequin.

Born in 1941, the artist Ken Sequin grew up in South London. He attended Wimbledon School of Art before studying illustration at the Royal College of Art. He worked as a freelance designer for much of the 1960s in print media and television. His book covers combine an interest in Ben Shahn’s stitched line with his beloved Polish School of movie posters.

In 1969 he met the Greek poet then known as Iliassa Papadaki, and the two soon married. Ken designed her broadside Love Quintets (1971) and supported her writing for the next fifty years. They moved together to East Yorkshire in 1974, where Ken took up a teaching post at Hull.

During this period, Iliassa’s work began to attract readers among the New York School of poets and the avant-garde in Europe. She commenced work on a translation of André du Bouchet’s long poem La Couleur – a meditation on lithographs by Bram van Velde – which she would continue to revise, abandon, and start again across the next three decades.

Iliassa’s translations of Du Bouchet, and her fragmentary commentary on the process, were posthumously published by Distance No Object in 2023 as The Colour and Duets. These books will be launched with readings and reception on 29 February.

In 1991, Ken and Iliassa returned to London and settled just off Brick Lane. No longer teaching, Ken took up painting again painting after a long interval. Inspired initially by the architecture of Athens – balcony scenes and street traffic – he began to explore a looser, non-geometric play between abstraction and figuration. Using a casein-based medium – favoured for its opacity and how it handles pigment – Ken works fast in the moment. But really these are slow paintings, revisited and reworked, overlaid with memory and landscape and the slip of current events into the historical.

Towards the Painting is the first exhibition of Ken Sequin’s work since his participation in the RA Young Contemporaries in 1960. It includes canvases completed in the years following Iliassa’s death in 2019, plus a generous selection of earlier works.

Walking around Brick Lane with Ken, what catches his eye? He likes rolls of fabric in shop windows, notices anyone on the street who has style. He stops to examine some interesting rust, abandoned junk, street signs, tile work, types of brick. He doesn’t think much of street art these days but likes the raw delinquency of old school graffiti tags. He enjoys the texture of a beaten-up white wall. Torn posters? Of course…

• With thanks to Dr Luke Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Modern Poetry, Department of English at King’s College London.