Monday, 20 July 2009

The Return of Ron and Barry

We held our first ‘Arts Festival’ in the Art Department at Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, where I work, over the weekend. (I meant to plug it last week, but was so busy setting it up). We had an exhibition of student’s work and also staff and artists associated with the department, including myself, with a lovely, and well-attended, private view on Thursday night. We hung it in a fashion inspired by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which looked great, and allowed us to put up and celebrate as much of the student’s work as possible. Over the weekend we had a range of activities and workshops on to compliment the show, which included Pottery, Stone Carving, Casting, Pinhole Camera workshops (my colleague and photographer, Laura Gale is so passionate about pinhole photography it’s infectious!), Embroidered Jewellery and Textiles, Video Workshops, Dance and Performance Workshops, and Printmaking. It was great fun, and was really well attended I’m pleased to say. Many of our students actually ran the workshops, and had the opportunity to work alongside the professional artists. I was really proud of them, as they were rushed off their feet in their casting workshop, but they coped admirably and interacted so well with the public. It was a great opportunity for them, as I didn’t get any experience like this until I was long out of my University degree, as an artist working in the community.

Robert Perry, local renowned landscape painter and RBSA member, was kind enough to lend us two very large paintings for the show. I’m a big fan of Rob’s work, particularly his Black Country landscapes where I grew up. He grew up in the Black Country too, in Stourbridge, and still lives there. He works entirely ‘plein air’, travelling and working in his mobile studio, which is a customised transit van. I’ve followed Rob’s exhibitions since I was a student on my Foundation Course many years ago. At that point he was making paintings in the dead of night, nocturnal landscapes as it were. This was out of necessity, as he was trying to fit painting around raising his kids as a single parent and, like me, holding down a job as a lecturer in Art and Design. It was at this point he decided to customise the van and work on entirely on location in the middle of the night when the kids were asleep. An inspired idea.

Black Country by Nightfall, oil on board, 2001

I organised a lecture visit by him for the department earlier in the year, which was really enjoyable. He turned up in the famous van which I was really pleased with. It seems almost as famous locally as him. Check out tomorrow’s episode of ‘Coast’ which features Rob working in France. Also, have a look at his website to find out more about his work:
The Stone Carving workshop was run by my friend, Dudley born artist Robert Bowers (above on the left). I’ve known Rob for nearly ten years and he is a great character and a natural comedian, and very passionate about art. We’ve taught together in the past too, where the students, a group of mature HND students, nicknamed us ‘Ron and Barry’, which I’ve only just realised is the name of The Chuckle Brothers! Rob is a talented sculptor and painter, whose enthusiasm and encouragement just rubs off on you. He always leaves a huge impression on people and this weekend was no exception. I came away from the weekend incredibly fired up about my practise and the months ahead. The whole event had been really motivating for the department and for me personally…

Check out Rob's website:

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