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. 

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