My first solo show was held in the Junior School canteen at the age of 9. Art was encouraged at the school, Hockney had been a pupil a few years before. Later I wasted the next five years at my grammar school managing one G.C.E in Art. So it was something of a personal renaissance when I began my Art School education. Enrolling on the commercial design course, I quickly realised I wanted to be a painter. However due to opposition and obstruction from both the head of department in commercial design, and the college principal, I was forbidden that option.


Self Portrait
1959
Unavailable


In 1958 as a student of seventeen, I rented a studio in the centre of Bradford and became an abstract painter. The 'New American Painting' was about to invade our shores and change the face of painting in Bradford.

This was abstract painting with a difference, exciting abstraction, - not at all what we were used to. We had pitied those students enduring a very long basic design course, recently introduced; a worthy attempt to train students to the niceties of abstract colour relationships.

It was the kind of abstraction I could do without. Where was the heart, the angst, the drama? Just look at the faces of the students. This wasn't for us, so bring on the action men! Having read about New York lofts, we moved in to a ramshackle room on Thornton Road. Away from the Graphic Design Department, we were free to fight the fight. At weekends we dripped and splashed, I painted some mean De Koonings, whilst others painted in the manner of Motherwell or Rothko. There would be the three or four of us at any one time, industriously emulating our heroes with a view to shocking those students who toiled with cheerless colour relationships. David Hockney called by to see what we were up to, only to exclaim bemusedly 'what on earth do you think you are doing?'. We rallied to the thought that Hockney couldn't possibly understand as he had only recently graduated with a series of small descriptive paintings of local landscapes. What would he know of the heroic struggle?

Our heroic struggle was short lived however, when the reality of submitting paintings to the R.C.A meant that size was determined by the restrictions of portfolio. My eight by fours seemed rather redundant now.

The romance of abstract painting has never left me. I still believe that next summer I will embark on a series of large, colourful and painterly abstractions that in some way will reflect the feeling of being alive and vital in a warm summer light.

Unfortunately, our summers don't seem to last very long, and besides, I don't find it easy to leave my nude, who is suggesting all kinds of abstract possibilities.




Model in a Dressing Gown
1957
Unavailable


Painting at Bradford College in the 50's

Experiments in the use of colour were left to the younger students on the new 'Basic Design' course; the teaching was thorough and rigorous, partly based on the teachings of Albers and Itten. I think the rest of us were rather frightened of its outpourings.

20th Century European painting was beginning to influence those on the painting course in Bradford but it seemed to produce rather ineffectual and artificial work. The painting was without that spark of something experienced, lacking the element of reality. Those who continued in the tradition of tonal painting were able to share knowledge and experience by utilising the life room or by working from their sketch books to build up compositions that mirrored the ordinary world outside the college. Most of their productions contained that ring of truth about them. At worst the work could be a little lack-lustre but would perhaps satisfy a very basic need to appreciate an ordered world of painting skillfully realised with the colour under control and it's draughtmanship sure at the core.

Those few students who were more adventurous, having seen contemporary abstraction, would generally be left to sort themselves out. They were advised that when they reached the age of advanced maturity, they would then have earned the right to try abstraction, but not to expect much!