Saturday, 18 December 2010

A first glimpse

A photograph entitled 'Dave Wales c. 1960', given to Margaret Mytton by Dave's old friend John Waughman. 

I looked again at these photographs after Derek sent us a short sequence from the film - a first glimpse of what he has been doing. It consisted of a couple of minutes of John revisiting the old terraced house in Glyn Road, Hackney - what estate agents call 'a quiet residential tree-lined street' - where Dave lived as a school boy and during his early student years. The sequence was lovely, very atmospheric, and John and Derek were able to look inside and see the places where, over 50 years ago, Dave drew his mother and father going about their chores and work. 

The soundtrack has yet to be put down, and so what we saw was a rough cut but it bodes very, very well for the finished film. My colleague Loz Kaye is writing special music for the film and I imagine that it will soon be ready for his input. Very exciting! 

Monday, 13 December 2010

The last weekend of filming

It has been a full-on weekend; Derek Smith capturing the missing pieces of film he needs, plus what he calls the "master interviews", namely interviews with Margaret Mytton and myself. So on Saturday I was filmed moving work around the studio in Haslingden, and reliving the period of time around Dave's death when I filmed the decaying mess of a building that it was at that time, before it had its makeover. In the afternoon I drove Derek around Haslingden; figure-of-eight circuits that enabled him to film from my car. Then, in the evening, I was interviewed at the Boo, talking about a wide range of topics relating to Dave, but feeling very tired and with my voice slowly breaking up...

In between times Derek set up various 'missing' shots - a Rossendale Free Press billboard about the discovery of Dave's paintings at Globe Arts; exterior shots of the buildings; and close-ups of some of Dave's etchings and notebooks. Then on Sunday morning it was the turn of Margaret Mytton, who went with Derek to Bolton Abbey, where they walked to the Valley of Desolation, one of Dave's favourite places. At that spot, Margaret did her interview. Sunday afternoon we held a meeting of the Trust at 54 Manchester Road, discussing finances; the on-going problem with the HMRC/Inland Revenue about the valuation of Dave's Estate; our relationship with the See Gallery (very positive), and how we recompense the many people who help us out from time-to-time. 

So Derek returns to London today, and with the exception of one or two interviews left to film, the filming has been completed. We hope to have the finished film by Easter.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Snowbound update

Well thank you for the comments and support relating to the last two posts. One faithful follower of this blog prints it off and sends the DP Trust a regular laminated hard copy, and has even provided me with a folder to keep the pages in! Thank you so much, David - it's very much appreciated. Tellingly we're about to go into a second volume.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, filming was undertaken at MMU and Derek emailed me that it was both interesting and useful footage. I didn't ask him what final accommodation had been made with the university authorities - I'll find out soon enough when he makes his last filming expedition to Rossendale to record myself and Margaret Mytton.

That trip up from London was cancelled this weekend due to the weather - moving around is a treacherous business right now; Margaret in particular has to cross the Pennines to get over to us and she reported that she spent five and a half hours just traveling to MMU and back during the week. Fingers crossed for next weekend.  

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Another chapter.

Derek Smith tells me that the filming at MMU went well, and that next weekend he wants to interview Margaret Mytton and myself and after that the filming for the documentary on Dave Pearson will be complete. Today was the final day of the exhibition at the See gallery, and next week I'll take the unsold pieces back to the studio at 54. So almost the end of  another chapter. It would be nice if the Inland Revenue would resolve their issue with death duties - then we could start 2011 knowing where the Trust stands.

This year we're better prepared for the cold weather - the water at the studio has been turned off, and the background heaters are on. Important to avoid another burst, especially as the cellar (that was partly flooded last winter) now houses more work as a result of moving the pieces out of Globe Arts Studios.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Hard times at MMU

Derek Smith has almost completed the filming for the documentary on Dave Pearson's work. The Trust hope that this film will help us to promote Dave's work more widely and support our aim to enhance the reputation of a unique and special man and artist. Derek has yet to interview Margaret Mytton and myself, but the rest of the filming is just about in place. 

One final piece of footage Derek wanted to include in the film is a short section inside Manchester Metropolitan University, where Dave taught for 38 years throughout it's various guises as Manchester School of Art and Design, Manchester Polytechnic, and now MMU. However permission to undertake this has turned into a long, legalistic process. First a facility fee had to be negotiated in order to gain access to the premises (£175 was finally agreed on);  then various other permissions were required. After a lot of negotiation by Derek, and with help from Margaret, herself a  Senior Lecturer at MMU, things finally seemed to be resolved. 

But when a final contract was issued to Derek it included a clause  'In addition the Licensee will pay to the Licensor 5% of the profits, only in the event the profits exceed £20,000' Despite the fact that we would be very, very surprised if the film made a profit of any kind, let alone in excess of £20K, this does seem a rather mercenary position for the University to take, especially when we're talking of a matter of a few minutes of footage in a 60 minute film created for a not-for-profit organisation. Derek says 'I must confess to never having seen this in all the years I have been producing films professionally since 1979'.

Margaret Mytton has written to the Conference and Events Co-ordinator at MMU pleading for a sensible and balanced response to the Trusts concerns. Among other things, she points out:

"As someone who worked closely alongside Dave Pearson for many years, I appreciate the tremendous commitment he had to the students, the courses he taught on, and to MMU as an institution. This was demonstrated not just by the high quality of his teaching which was legendary, but by the many, many evenings on which, other than students, we would be the only persons in Grosvenor. It seems appropriate that this commitment and 38 years of his life is represented visually in a film about his life and work, without penalty."

She goes on to say.... 

"I welcome the opportunity for MMU to share in any reflected glory that may ensue as we continue to raise Dave's profile. As we are wishing to portray MMU in the best possible light, this is free advertising for the Manchester School of Art. In fact because of the fee Derek has agreed to pay, MMU are already actually being paid to get free advertising!"

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Dave Pearson and the Northern Renaissance

As part of his research for the film on Dave Pearson that the Trust has commissioned, film-maker Derek Smith has been researching Dave's past. Derek came across a Guardian review of an exhibition in 1972 of Dave's work inspired by Van Gogh. Written by the critic Merete Bates, the review says "...unlike so many artists' interpretations after a master, it is not easily forgotten." She finishes by wondering "It will be interesting to see what will grow after Van Gogh. Dave Pearson has great capacity to explore his subject thoroughly."

Derek tracked down Merete, who apparently now paints in Dorset. In a reply to Derek she writes a memory of the period in the 1970s when she worked as a national critic based in the North-West, and refers to the last line of her review:

"It is impressive to go through his work on the web-site and see how he did develop. "The Jarrow March" for example is only too relevant just now. I imagine he was a superb teacher?

"It was an amazing time to work first at Granada and then on the Guardian, especially with a completely free rein that I had then. 

"I can remember reviewing/interviewing many artists who may have been helped..(but they were good anyway) national exposure.....John Virtue,  John Loker, Tony Cragg, Adrian Henri... Then  Norman Adams,  Peter Prendergast, Jim Billsborough, Kate Barnard nee Westbrook all of whom became great friends, to name a few. These were sometimes alongside artists already well-known - John Hoyland, Alan Davie, Winifred Nicholson, Tony Caro. I would often be covering 3 - 4 exhibitions a week, some with interviews, all well worth seeing. The great advantage of the North, as I have since discovered, is the provision of great galleries even in the smaller towns. Of course there's the Bluecoat....but also the Haworth, the Tib Lane (until recently), the Park Square and the big city galleries such as Leeds, Manchester, the Graves in Sheffield. There is designated space to show painting...

"Of course theatre really exploded then too, sometimes in alliance with television, sometimes independently. At Granada there was World in Action with John Shepherd and Les Woodhead, et al. there were stunning writers like Jim Allen, Jack Rosenthal, Alan Sillitoe... there was the Stables with Trevor Griffiths and others..I myself made documentaries (or at least researched, filmed and wrote them) on the Durham mines, and  the early Labour movement and also wrote a play for Ken Trodd. Then there were the new theatres, the Everyman, the Bolton Octagon, Sheffield Crucible, Leeds Playhouse, the Victoria at Stoke with Peter Cheeseman, the Manchester Exchange...  Not to mention the Art Colleges - Albert Hunt at Bradford and Willy Tirr at Leeds, Jeff Nuttall.....I can't believe, thinking back, how so much could flourish out of nothing in such a short time and it was by no means prosperous, whatever they say - more like emergence from the duress that followed the second world war."

This paints a picture of a kind of Northern Renaissance, a time in retrospect seen as a Golden Age, that I remember quite clearly, although I hadn't seen it in those terms before. To me it's perceptive and very interesting, and it shines yet another light on Dave and his development. 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Selling - and the Buy Art Fair

Since the opening of Dave's show at the See Gallery we've sold a number of paintings from visitors to the gallery who were directed on to the studio in Haslingden. Haslingden is about 5 miles from Crawshawbooth, so it's not a long haul to travel on to visit the studio. The Trust are considering formalising this arrangement, so that Julian and Jackie (at the gallery) have a key to the studio and can show and sell work from there as well as  from their gallery. 

This has the benefit that Margaret and I, who are often not available because of our other commitments, can rely on there being access to all the work for potential buyers, even when we're busy. For the See gallery it extends their ability to sell, as well enabling them to discuss work with their clients even when they don't have it on show, in the knowledge that they can also market those pieces. It means, however, that we have to have a very well mapped out and developed plan of pricing, pieces that aren't for sale, and work that needs to be set aside for one reason or another. 

Yesterday I went to the Buy Art Fair in Manchester, an annual jamboree, this year in Spinningfields, for dealers, galleries, and artists to show and sell their work to the public, who pay a £5.00 entry charge for the privilege. Julian of the See was there, promoting the gallery's work with the Ray Lowry Foundation. Ray died in the same year as Dave Pearson, and also lived (and died) in Rossendale. There, the similarities end, except to say that Ray was a cartoonist and graphic artist of wicked integrity, and with some not insubstantial ability as a painter, mainly of Manchester street scenes. 

The experience of the Fair left me dispirited. I couldn't see it as a place to show Dave's work. Too much of a market for second-rate interior furnishings masquerading as art. 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

More photographs from Globe Art Studios

A few more photographs (courtesy of Margaret Mytton) of the studio at Globe Arts, before it was broken up and therefore just as it was left by Dave Pearson. Eventually he was unable to use it any more due to the progress of his illness. It really was a special space, almost an installation piece, filled with these red, white and black constructions. 

Underneath, once we cleared things away, were hundreds of other paintings, mainly from the 1990s. These have been moved to the studio in Haslingden, while the string and nail pieces have either been given to friends and colleagues, or skipped, with just a score or so put into storage. 

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A new exhibition in Rossendale

Last night was the opening of the third exhibition of work by Dave Pearson at the See Gallery in Crawshawbooth. Beautifully hung, and with an emotional coherence that wasn't so apparent in the earlier shows. This because, with the work all coming from the cache found at Dave's Globe Arts studio, the work came from a relatively concentrated period of time - mainly from the 1990s. 

Despite this there is nevertheless a wide range of approaches and techniques on display. These include 10 self-portraits (most extremely dark in mood), a large number of oil paintings of different sizes from the Bestiary series, and a few of the very distinctive constructions that Dave made during this period (such as the one on the wall in the photograph above).

The constructions are fascinating. The photographs above and below record how the studio at Globe Arts was left at Dave's death. A stash of wild, almost violent, work created from white-painted boards, nails, red and black wool, and with various attached items, including some found objects collected from the various stays in hospital he was experiencing at this time in his life. 

These pieces have now been cleared away; some kept by the Dave Pearson Trust; some given to friends including the other artists at Globe Arts; and the rest sadly had to be tipped (most of these were damaged). The example at the See was an early construction, and rather than being inspired by the experience of hospitalisation, was Dave's response to the  outbreak of the Gulf War. This and a few other pieces on the same subject seem to have sown the seeds for the later hospital works. An example of the political merging with the (highly) personal.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Spent a lot of yesterday at the See gallery looking at the work that Julian and Jackie had selected from the 500 or so pieces of work that we removed from Globe Arts studios a few days ago. With Jackie and Margaret Mytton I helped title, price and place the pieces of work. 

Particularly notable are the series of Bestiary paintings, influenced by the strange and mythic creatures found in medieval bestiaries, and also the series of dark, mask-like self-portraits that Dave painted during this period in the 1990s.  

The exhibition, which opens next weekend (private view Friday 22nd) has a special intensity and integrity probably because, unlike earlier exhibitions at the See, the work in it covers only a decade or so of Dave's output. There is nevertheless a wide range of work - from harrowing wood, nail and string constructions, through the series of small (almost miniature) oil paintings, to the comic and strange 'Christmas Fair' creations made for the Globe Christmas exhibitions. 

Saturday, 16 October 2010

See Gallery

See Gallery, Oddfellows Hall, Binns St, Crawshawbooth, Rossendale, Lancashire BB4 8AA

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The move out of Globe

Yesterday we finally moved everything out of Dave Pearson's old studio space at Globe Arts. His studio had sat there, untouched, since his death - in fact it is probably three years since Dave had been there himself. It is one of the larger spaces at the studios, and inevitably the time had come when other artists needed to move in and take over the area, which sits at the top floor of a Victorian cotton-mill complex and is reached via an antiquated (clapped out) Victorian lift . 

There were 8 of us - Ruth and John from Globe Arts, Margaret and her friend Paul, Dave Chadwick and myself, Chris Pearson plus Julian from the See gallery. Then there was Derek Smith, who spent the day filming the proceedings. Organisation was slightly chaotic, but things got done. By things I mean - photographing every artwork as it left the building (Margaret and Paul); filling two skips with rubbish and any damaged work; carefully removing 600 paintings (Ruth, John, Julian, Chris), and loading and driving these to the old studio in Haslingden, then unloading them and finding storage in the, ever-shrinking, available space (Dave and I). We worked from 9.30 in the morning; by 6.30pm everything had been done, leaving just a little tidying needed round the edges.

People approached the work in different ways; Margaret was, as usual, methodical as she needed to be in order to record the work, her attention alighting on pieces she specially wanted keeping. It was hard not to be affected by having to tip old paint brushes, coffee mugs and other personal items into a skip. Not to mention the pieces of work that were either damaged or simply unable to be stored in the space we have. There is a tension between wanting to keep every last item that Dave produced, and the need to retain the refurbished studio in Haslingden as a reasonable place to view his work and to some extent that tension is reflected in Margaret and my own slightly differing sense of priorities. But in the event a sensible compromise has been reached, and there's a corresponding relief that (almost) all of Dave's work is now gathered safely in one place.    

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Jarrow March triptych now has a home

The 'Jarrow March' a triptych painted by Dave Pearson in 1986 has spent most of the last 20 years in storage. It has now found a home at the office of Horse + Bamboo Theatre company in Waterfoot, Rossendale, where it is on loan from the Dave Pearson Trust. The painting, considered to be one of Dave's most important large oil paintings, is 5.50 metres wide by 2.80 metres high. It will remain at the office for the foreseeable future but may well become a centre piece for a forthcoming exhibition at the Peoples' History Museum in Manchester.

Things are progressing with the move of work from Globe Arts studios this coming Friday to the See gallery and Dave Pearson's studio in Haslingden. Vans and skips have been organised; a team of helpers assembled; and Derek Smith is travelling up from London to record the move for the documentary he is making on Dave's life and work.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

A date is agreed

The 8th October has been chosen as the day to move the work from Globe Artists Studios in Stacksteads; to move the work and tidy the space that had been Dave's studio when he worked at Globe. We've assembled a group of 6 or more helpers so feel confident that we'll manage the job comfortably within the day. Thank you to everybody involved.

Margaret has plans to record each piece of work as it leaves the studio - a production line photographic session. I'm particularly concerned with what happens at the other end, in Dave's old Haslingden studio. Room has to be made here to receive the incoming work and although the scale is nothing like the major move of work that we undertook in the Spring, there's still a significant amount of work to make space for. The unknown is how much, if any, can go directly to the See gallery in readiness for an exhibition at the end of October.  Note: I must ring Julian today and fix a date for this.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Another move

At last there's a plan to move Dave's things from Globe Arts Studio, where they've been since his death over 2 years ago. Dave was an important member of the studio group, although he was unable to visit or work there for the last few years of his life. Nevertheless there's a sizeable collection of his work there - especially from the Bestiary series, as well as a variety of work done for Globe exhibitions. 

Most notable of all are the huge string, nail, and wool pieces that Dave created as a response to his hospitalisation and early operations. These are raw, angry pieces that suggest wounds and cuts, and often integrate surgical material within the collages. We'll keep some of these but many - probably the vast majority - are beyond rescue and we'll probably have to destroy them. 

Once this has been done nearly all of Dave's work will be either at our studio collection in Haslingden, or in Chris Pearson's nearby house. Making room for it is another headache, but there's a plan to show highlights of the Globe work at the See gallery next month.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Visitors and interviewees

We've had a second week of Derek Smith visiting us (the first was in July). Derek is in the process of making a film about Dave Pearson and his work, and continued this week with filmed interviews of Dave's friends and colleagues plus some background filming of Rossendale and, in particular of Haslingden, Dave's adopted home. 

Among the interviewees were Melvyn Chantrey and John Hyatt (another resident of Haslingden); and there was a visit to the studio from David Maclagan, the artist, art therapist, author and lecturer. These meetings have all been facilitated by Margaret Mytton, my co-Trustee at the Dave Pearson Trust. 

Derek tells me that, since his summertime visit, he has also been able to interview Vince Rea, the founder of the Bede Gallery in Jarrow. Vince is now retired but had many memories of the time when Dave was a regular exhibitor at the Bede.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Article in 'Lancashire Life'.

For anyone interested there's a new piece on Dave Pearson and the work of the Trust in the September edition of 'Lancashire Life'. It's also available online:

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The tax situation (in some detail).

Since the main reason to write this blog was in order to help anyone who finds themselves in the position that I was placed in, namely an Executor of the Estate of an artist, it's worth me writing at some length about the current situation with regard to Estate Duty. I went back to the early entries of the blog and realised that I never really discussed this in much detail. But now, 18 months on, HM Revenue and Customs are asking us for clarification it's worth saying something about the background and circumstances that has produced this situation. 

a) Dave Pearson asked me to be joint Executor to his will, with a particular role in looking after his artwork, and in that role I supported his son Christopher in negotiating the probate arrangements around the valuation of the artwork left by his father. In Dave's case this was difficult as he simply didn't sell much work during his lifetime, and had not sold anything for several years before his death. Probate, by the way, is a document that enables a person, usually an executor, to deal with someone's estate, between their death and the acceptance in law of the settlement.

I researched and explained the inheritance tax situation as I understood it to Chris, and I made a real effort to seek expert valuation of the artwork. You will appreciate that this was difficult as the artwork in the studio had not been touched for many years and the building itself was in a very poor state of repair, plus the artwork was distributed throughout the building in a chaotic way.

b) Dave's Estate included a studio, various 'chattels' (furniture and such like) and some money in the bank, as well as his artwork. The first things were relatively easy to value, and the total value of these came under the threshold for Dave's estate to need to pay Estate Duty. 

Chris and I  realised the importance of getting the work valued and spent several days on the internet and telephone trying to get expert opinion. Walton and Walton, auctioneers and valuers, of Burnley finally agreed to meet with me and asked me to bring a selection of Dave Pearson's artwork to their salesroom. Their website describes them as offering services for 'Professional Valuations for Probate'. I asked Chris Pearson to come along to this meeting and we had a consultation lasting about half an hour with their expert. He explained the difficulty of valuing the work; and given that there had been no history of sales of Dave Pearson's work for the past 5 years or more we were told that there was no basis to value the work beyond a nominal value. I asked for a written valuation but they declined to provide this, saying again that there was no basis or history on which to base a valuation and repeated their advice to put a nominal value on the artwork, which they felt was a true reflection of the value at the time of Dave Pearson's death.

To be certain about the issue I continued to research this, and spoke with several other valuers over the telephone. None would even meet with me, and the repeated message was that as there was no history of sales of the work for a period of many years, and that as Dave Pearson was not a 'well-known', or even a 'known' artist, any valuation could only be nominal.

c) I passed this information on to Chris Pearson and he met with his own solicitor, and at that point they made a valuation of the artwork portion of the estate in line with the advice that it only had a nominal value. This then became part of the valuation of the Estate.  

d) At that point we set up the Trust and, of course, this blog explains and explores how this was done. Then a few months ago the tabloid press got hold of a story that had started with a local news report - it was along the lines of the artwork being worth a lot of money ('millions' were quoted) and played heavily on the idea that Dave Pearson had been a reclusive eccentric; in other words a modern version of the 'miser's gold' story. Of course all this was very, very far from the truth, but then the press isn't very interested at getting at the truth, and clearly they felt it made a good story as it appeared in several national newspapers.

e) So the current situation with regard to HM Revenue is that they are seeking an explanation as to the gap between a probate valuation, given late in 2008, of Dave Pearson's artwork that is 'nominal' (i.e. probably between £3,000 and £5,000) and press reports in 2010 of the work being worth 'millions'. 

f) The key thing about probate valuation of an estate is that it's the value at the point of death. A subsequent change in value is irrelevant with regard to assessing probate. As anyone following this blog will know the whole point of setting up the Dave Pearson Trust and the work we've undertaken over the past 18 months has been to increase awareness of Dave's legacy and, as a natural development of this, his works have increased in value.  All sales of work since probate have been properly recorded, and in a period of 21 months the Trust has sold just under £50,000 worth of his work. We are completely transparent about this - in fact it's a direct by-product of our aims and objectives.  We met with our solicitor last month to discuss the tax implications of these sales, and that is currently in hand. 

g) Dave Pearson's case is probably unusual although I'm certain that it won't be unique. Clearly anyone undertaking this kind of work has to be very careful to avoid the charge that they had purposely under-valued the work of an artist in order to avoid death duties. In the case of an artist who sells their work on a regular basis this would be relatively easy to prove one way or another. For an artist who hardly sold their work at all it can easily lead to the situation we're currently having to deal with.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The taxman cometh

On return from holiday (hence the gap in these blog entries) I found a letter waiting for me from Woodcocks, our solicitor, and assumed it to be about the meeting we had last month to review the Trusts tax position. In fact events have overtaken us as Chris Pearson has been asked by HM Revenue and Customs to explain the gap between the nominal value inserted in the probate papers against the value reported in the media of Dave's estate. Go back a few months and we had frankly ridiculous and inflated reports in the press about the value of the work.

In the letter details were asked for about any meetings we had with probate valuers regards to valuation of the work that was left on Dave's death, and so on. This will mean going over things that happened two years ago; it's precisely the situation I wanted to avoid by talking with our solicitor last month.

Anyway, I'm certain that we have done all the right things, and correctly. One bonus is that we have this blog - documenting the process and the work we've put in to develop Dave's reputation! 

But anyway,  for now there's another weeks holiday to have and then buckle down to sorting this out and, hopefully, satisfying the tax authorities. 

Saturday, 24 July 2010


After our recent meeting I had made an appointment to visit the solicitor who helped us set up the Trust in the first place - Stephen Parr of Woodcocks, Haslingden. We like his clear and straightforward manner.  

The tax position needed clarifying for us. When the Trust was first established there was such a lot of information to take in that, although Stephen outlined the tax situation to us, it seemed a very distant concern at that time. Now, after the Dave Pearson Trust has been selling his work for 18 months, it needed to be looked at in detail and we had to make certain that we were operating correctly. 

Stephen outlined the need to register with the Inland Revenue and the situation with regard to Inheritance Tax, VAT,  Income and Capital Gains Taxes. Margaret and I came out of the meeting pleased that we hadn't left it any later to consult him. We're now waiting for the notes of the meeting to be sent to us by Woodcocks, and then to decide how we'll deal with things as they stand. Fortunately, the situation is easily manageable and the solicitor will be able to deal with any declarations on our behalf. 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Moving along

The Trust - Margaret Mytton, Chris Pearson and I - met last week, and reviewed our position. We confirmed that we would commission a film from Derek Smith; we agreed to visit a solicitor to check on our tax situation and a few other legal questions that have arisen; and we also agreed that we would meet with Julian and Jackie of the See gallery to look at ways we could work more closely together. 

Since then Derek has lost no time, and is currently back in Rossendale conducting a series of interviews with friends, and others who know Dave's work, as a way of working gently into the business of film-making. 

I've continued to sell work, but I'm now extremely aware of the need to keep important pieces back. I've also had a day of cataloguing (i.e. entering pieces into the Artlook catalogue) and we are now approaching having catalogued a thousand pieces. Of course, given Dave's phenomenal productivity, this still only scratches the bottom of the pile. Finally, the catalogue had now been moved onto a Macbook so the whole thing can be easily taken up to the studio for comparisons and in order to make the process of cataloguing generally more efficient. 

Saturday, 3 July 2010

A film is commissioned

Two more of the newly discovered slides - a picture of the Potato Eaters (seen in the exhibition shot below), and a close up of their table. 

Yesterday we met to discuss the idea of a film about Dave with Derek Smith, and agreed to commission a film by Derek about Dave's work and, to some extent, his life. 

Derek has recently completed the film "An Exile in Paradise: The Adventures of Edward Lear in Greece and Albania" which won the Arts Silver World Medal at the 2009 New York Festivals International Television Programming and Promotion Awards, and this film has been shown on Sky Arts. The production company's website says 'Derek Smith has made many documentary series for Independent Television and the BBC. He won the first BP Arts Award for a film about Franz Liszt, a clutch of medals at the New York TV and Film Festival and Royal Television Society Awards for his regional work. He has made portraits of figures as diverse as Lucian Freud, John Tavener and The Dalai Lama.' 

Derek came to one of Dave's exhibitions at the See Gallery and then visited the studio. He was immediately excited about the possibilities of a film about Dave and we, in turn, instinctively felt that Derek would be the right person to make such a film.  Our hope is that we will have a finished film, of about an hour in length, ready for release for Easter 2011.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Images from the Van Gogh period

A recently discovered set of slides from the late 1960s/early 1970s shows some of Dave Pearson's work from his Van Gogh period. Nearly all of this work has been lost either through deterioration of the papier-mache, or for lack of storage space. The top photograph above shows 'The Potato Eaters' and part of 'The Blue Reaper' in the foreground, probably at the Bede Gallery in Jarrow. The wall on the right is full of etchings and drypoints from this period and, fortunately, there are examples remaining of most of these. 

The central photograph is probably from the Liverpool Academy exhibition in the same year, 1970. The blue 'Vincents Hat' is visible, with 'Sunflowers' on the right and 'The Blue Reaper' again glimpsed through the doorway. At the bottom there's a close up of 'Vincent and the Blue Easel' from one of these shows  - the figure of Van Gogh being roughly life-size. 

Friday, 18 June 2010

Holding back work...

After the Reveal Open Studios weekend we were expecting a visit yesterday from BBC Radio 4 Front Row, but that got postponed at short notice. Instead Margaret and I met up at 54 and used the opportunity to review where we are with things. 

A lot has been achieved in less than two years, but having rescued the work and the studio many of the the fundamental questions and issues about the Estate remain. In particular how are we going to increase awareness of Dave Pearson's work and get to see it represented more widely in collections? Up to now we have been selling work at what we consider to be low prices in order to raise enough money to sustain our work, but we now have sufficient funds to look after the storage and building for the immediate future as well as commission a film about Dave. 

We started by deciding to put more work aside, to 'ring-fence' it from immediate sales. The criteria will be 
  • important pieces in Dave's development; 
  • exceptional pieces that would currently be ludicrously under-priced; 
  • typical examples from his main series of works, especially those in short supply. 

So, for example we've decided to hold back the remaining 40 self-portraits on canvas. We will also soon look at the relief paintings and some of the series of works on paper. We've already been through this process with the 'In the 7 Woods' pencil series (see above for an example) and held back perhaps 30% of the drawings. We've done it for the large prints too. Eventually we'll do this for all of the work... 

As Trustees of the Estate we have a duty to the mission of the Trust, which is (in short) protecting the work and enhancing Dave Pearson's reputation as an artist. We also have a duty to Chris Pearson who made over the work to the Trust (he remains a Trustee) to manage the sales of the work sensibly, and we recognise that it would be foolish to sell pieces at this stage that may well be significantly more valuable in future. It's all about striking the right balance of course, and we need to get the balance right between getting some income in now and making certain that the legacy is properly protected.

Monday, 14 June 2010


We had over 120 visitors at the weekend; most of them staying about an hour exploring Dave's old studio. So most of the time it was busy and buzzing with chat and enthusiasm. This was a good number as it meant Margaret or I were able to speak individually with just about everyone who came through our door to explain a little about who Dave was; why the studio in Haslingden was there; and what our plans were. Several people had even made the journey from London to Haslingden specially in order to visit us. 

I got out for short period and visited two of the other studios in the Valley, but run out of time to see more. I think this was typical of most of the artists involved - so busy with their own studios that they didn't have the time to see what us others were up to. The feedback was that the weekend was a great success, although the See gallery had far fewer visitors than the studios, possibly as a result of people deciding that they would focus on visiting those venues that weren't normally open to the public. 

At 54 Manchester Road we also managed to sell 6 pieces of work, and there several people who took my details so they could arrange another visit in order to buy at a later date. There was a really enthusiastic response from almost everyone - a good weekend, and many thanks to Susan, Barbara, Dave, Steve, Kay and Anne who helped us out.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Adopt a large relief!

I've been grabbing the odd hour or two to go to over to the studio and clear and tidy in readiness for the Open Studio weekend - on the 12th and 13th of June we're opening up Studio 54 between 11.00am and 4.30pm as part of Reveal: Rossendale Open Studios. 

There's been a lot of tidying away, and I had also hoped to deal with one of our persistent problems - the Asylum! Dave created two pieces in the early 1970s based on Van Gogh's paintings of the Asylum at St. Remy. They were large and very heavy reliefs, both over 8' x 6' (2.4m x 1.8m). They were exhibited at the Hayward on the South Bank but since then they have both been stored at Dave's Haslingden studio. The largest Asylum piece is thankfully displayed at the Boo - the theatrespace and venue belonging to Horse + Bamboo Theatre - but I had hoped to hang the smaller of the two pieces in the entrance hall of the studio.

Yesterday I gave up. There's only one place it would fit, but an examination (and a test bore-hole) showed that the wall there simply isn't strong enough for it. In the exhibition room it totally dominates everything else, and it's far too big to move elsewhere in the building. So - what to do? Asylum 2 is pictured below...

We may simply have to record it very thoroughly, and then break it up; destroy it. We don't want to do this but there now doesn't seem like any other solution. Unless we find a lovely home for it. Anyone out there interested. If so - please, please get in touch.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Getting sorted for Reveal

On the weekend of the 12th and 13th of June we're opening up Studio 54 between 11.00am and 4.30pm as part of Reveal: Rossendale Open Studios. 

But the place is still chaotic from the move of the big paintings in April, and the two 'gallery' spaces, that should be the areas where we can exhibit some of Dave's work with a measure of order, are still full of paintings left on the floor or in boxes. Both Margaret and myself are very, very busy with work and it's becoming a big problem working out how we'll make things presentable for the open weekend. 

Yesterday I grabbed a few hours and made some headway on the top floor - repairing a plan chest, and rationalising some of the shelving. If I can find the equivalent of a day between now and the 12th there's a fighting chance I'll be able to put up a few more racks and make up some shelving for the note-books. If I can do this things will be fine, even if not brilliantly arranged. The single biggest problem is I'll need at least another 2 strong people to rehang Asylum 2 - one of Dave's largest pieces, which otherwise dominates the downstairs exhibition room.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Further interesting developments

Last week I met with Julian and Jackie from the See gallery to sort out sales from the recent exhibition, plus their own purchases and we discussed some ideas for how the relationship between the gallery and the Trust might develop in future. They have been truly considerate and engaged partners in this project and we are keen to continue this constructive relationship. 

There have continued to be a few sales and interest in viewing the studio. This I'm squeezing into a busy work schedule, and Margaret too is entering a busy period. It's this kind of situation where a partnership with the See could be very useful. 

I'm also help to plan the Reveal Open Studios weekend (12th and 13th June) when the local artists studios throw open their doors to visitors. Dave's old studio in Haslingden will take part in this and there are a number of jobs we need to get sorted in order to have the studio ready as it's still in a mess from the recent move.

Publicity of the Trust and Dave's work continues. Yesterday we were visited by Emma, a reporter, and Claire, a photographer, from Lancashire Life. They spent a long time with Margaret and myself; not rushing but asking serious and sensible questions about the work and our relationship with Dave. It was a relief after the cursory and rushed visits by some of the national press. We are seriously considering commissioning a film documentary to capitalise on and expand the interest that has grown from the recent interest in Dave and his work.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

A wonderful discovery...

An unexpected email from the grandson of the painter Mckenzie Moss has delivered us a real surprise. 

The portrait of Dave Pearson above was made by Mckenzie in 1962 when Dave lodged with Mckenzie and David Bates in Preston. Mckenzie and David were both ex-students of the Royal College of Arts and lecturers at Preston. Dave had recently joined the staff at Preston and at this date presumably travelled up to Preston from London on a weekly basis.

My thanks to Ben Holland for alerting us to this, and to Mckenzie for her permission to show the painting here.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Slowing down and considering the next step

The local paper, the Rossendale Free Press, had a decent two page feature piece in about Dave and the Trust (rather better written than the tabloid pieces of a few weeks ago). With this the immediate flurry of interest has slowed right down - and we're very grateful for the breather. Now the Trust can start thinking about the next phase - organising things from the move; planning;  looking afresh at our roles; and doing this without the pressure of paying a high monthly storage bill.

The Peoples History Museum in Manchester had no space for taking the 'Jarrow March' triptych on permanent loan, but they would like it for 6 months as the centre-piece of an upcoming exhibition on Unemployment. In the meantime Horse + Bamboo Theatre in Waterfoot have installed two of Dave's larger pieces in the Boo (their theatre-space) and are considering the Jarrow piece. At least these will now be seen rather than stored.

Monday, 19 April 2010

News reports, sales, and putting work aside

Things continue to develop. I got to watch recordings of both the BBC and Granada TV news reports on the move; and both were good. Radio 4 continues to show interest in Dave and his work; and this weekend we sold another 12 or so pieces of work to a serious collector, as well as meeting other collectors who were buying from the See gallery exhibition. 

The exhibition at the See has now finished, and this evening I brought back the remaining pieces of work. Far fewer than I took over two months ago. Again, we're very grateful to Julian and Jackie for their support and hard work in helping with Dave's legacy. 

Margaret and I also got to put aside a number of pieces to retain, for now at any case, for the Trust, especially prints. Dave did hundreds of wonderful etchings, drypoints, and monoprints in his lifetime but, typically, never produced series - so nearly all are one-offs, and we're concerned that we don't sell them all at this point. 

Things have been really busy lately with the Estate. We've every reason to be delighted at our progress as a Trust. But it has meant a lot of hard work, and probably more than we expected. Margaret will now take over our liaison with the press; while I'll continue to oversee the studio. 

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The next stage

The interest in Dave's work continues to grow. We've done a lot of heart-searching as a result of the ultimately trivial (and at worst downright misleading) publicity that grew out of moving Dave's large paintings back into the studio. The fact remains that it has engendered another wave of visitors wanting to see and even buy pieces of work. All of these enquiries are genuine, and show that people are wiser than the press appear to think.

Tomorrow we (Margaret and I) will be at the studio, rehanging pieces, clearing up after the move, and meeting some of these interested people. We'll also start the process of deciding which pictures to set aside for the Trust, rather than sell.  

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Press frenzy nonsense

The day of the move was, as I mention in the previous blog, filmed by the TV, was on the radio, and a newspaper reporter was present. None of this prepared us for the outcome - 'features' in The Mail, The Express, The Metro, and a report on BBC North-West News; then The Guardian the next day, and Granada News...

The storyline invented by the tabloids was, broadly, how a cheap terraced house had suddenly become home to a treasure trove worth a million pounds. We all found this deeply depressing - nothing very much about Dave Pearson the person let alone the artist, or the sheer wonder and splendour of his work and what there was focused on  the apparent 'eccentricity' of committing oneself to a life dedicated to art and painting. In fairness the TV reports were better, and gave a more rounded impression.

Even The Guardian the next day stated - quite wrongly - that the Van Gogh Bedroom piece, something that Dave created during the 60s, formed the centre-piece of the restored studio, whereas this piece, made of papier-mache, has been almost totally lost or destroyed. Again, the feeling was of a story run primarily for the sake of filling newsprint.

We  should have been prepared, but it was still upsetting. The only good thing was the response from any number of people who saw through the nonsense and recognised both good painting and a human story. Visits to the See gallery over the last weekend increased massively, and people have responded in a generous and good spirited manner to the distortions in the press.