Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Reviving Dave's prints

One of the very recent developments with Dave's work is that we have asked the printmaker Alan Birch to look at the etching and drypoint plates left by Dave and see whether any can be brought back to a usable state and, if so, select some for creating new editions from. 

Alan came to the studio and selected a good number of plates to work on. The process involves cleaning them of their dirt, ink, rust and other layers of material, and then making an assessment of whether the plate is in good enough condition to print from. If Alan believes that they are, he will then print a proof. 

This morning Ella and I went along to Alan's workshop at Prospect Studio in Waterfoot, and looked at four large plates that he had just taken proof copies from. They were all remarkable images, from the Calendar Customs series of the late 1970s, and in surprisingly good condition. In each case we were enthusiastic about Alan following this up by taking the process through to edition stage.

Above are some details of two if the plates. They're extremely beautiful images, and we're convinced that these are very collectable. We're also asking Alan to continue with the process; there are at least another 30 or 40 plates good enough to explore in this way.

Monday, 12 October 2015


Ella has finally passed the 10,000th piece of work in the cataloguing of Dave's work. The works she chose for this august occasion were from a small selection of pastel drawings that she uncovered in one of the 20 or so plastic box folders that have recently been the focus of her cataloguing work. These contained a wide of range of Dave's work including a high proportion of early student drawings, but also a number of very special series from later in his career - including these pastels, three of which are shown above.

There remain two of these boxes still to be processed, and a mezzanine attic above the workshop space that contains a number of shaped canvases and a few early seminal paper-mache pieces from the 1960s. Once these have been done Ella will be able to move from the top floor of the studio to the two lower floors to continue her catalogue. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Art Trail 2015

The decision to return the large ground floor front room at Dave's studio in Haslingden into a gallery space really paid off this weekend at the Rossendale Art Trail - the renamed Reveal Open Studios weekend. 

It meant that at least a small selection of the work can be viewed in optimum conditions (above) and this was clearly appreciated by the 80 or so people who came through over the two days. It was also reflected in a good number of sales being made, and a lot of interest from people who want to make an appointment to visit when they would have more time to look through the work.

Ella Cole, who is managing the process of cataloguing Dave's work, has now reached 9,999 pieces in the catalogue. Purposely holding back from the ten thousandth until we have a bottle of champagne at hand! This quantity  of work is still all contained on the top floor  of the building, and the ground and first floor have yet to be sorted through.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Portraits uncovered

I had an interesting email last week from a Tony Lane, from Wales. Tony sent along photographs of two portraits he bought in a mixed exhibition in Liverpool. He remembers it as being in the late 80s or early 90s. He pointed out that he had no intention of selling them, but simply thought we would be interested. 

They are lovely paintings - quite small, roughly 10" square. I mentioned that I thought they might be self-portraits, as they fit in with other pieces we have that include similar paintings that clearly are self-portraits. Tony instead thought they had similarities with the early (1960s) Van Gogh work. They clearly are rather later than that, and would probably have been painted shortly before the exhibition in which Tony bought them. I would say that they were self-portraits, but not in the sense that Dave would have sat in front of a mirror to paint them. From the mid 80s and onwards he began a series of paintings with autobiographical themes and I think these might well fit in with those works. 

Thank you, Tony...and if anyone else has  work by Dave Pearson please let the Trust know so we can add them to the catalogue.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A big job...

Ella Cole, Kay Kennedy, Sean Frith and Graham Breakwell spent the day with me re-organising Dave's studio in order to return to the original idea of having one room dedicated to showing work, a mini-gallery - as against every single room in the 7 room space being used as storage. 

Given the vast amount of work at the studio this is no simple job, and at several points today I thought we might have to abandon the task. But in the event we managed it, although the rest of the three-storey studio is now totally full with piles and racks of paintings. Two examples below of large oil paintings we uncovered in the process: 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Dave in Gold

I've had an email from Robin Morley and Jane Short. Robin and Jane are old friends, and last time they visited I took them to visit Dave Pearson's studio.  They sent  me some pictures this morning of the Goldsmiths' Review, from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, of whom Jane is a member; she's an extremely accomplished gold- and silver-smith.  

The Goldsmiths' Review recently commissioned Jane to make a new piece - and here it is on the front cover of their annual report. The piece is inspired by her visit to and showing her Dave Pearson's paintings and drawings. She loved the intense colour and texture of the mark making which suits her use if colour and engraving. The piece is called 'Colour Junction'...and what a wonderful tribute!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Another hoard...

I've mentioned many times in this blog that Ella Cole spends two days each week cataloguing the collection of work left by Dave Pearson. In his three storey studio she started work on the top floor, and after almost two years has catalogued over 9000 pieces - all on the upper level. We thought that work on this top floor was almost completed, but late in the day discovered a hoard of a dozen or so large boxes of work - a lot of it early work, from Dave's student years. 

This week Ella open a new box, and discovered 300 pieces of work in it. It's particularly interesting - small experimental coloured sketches and trial pieces, with a dozen or thereabouts on each page. Above is a small selection of these from the corner of one such sheet. 

One of the fascinating things about these pieces is how assured they are for such a young artist (Dave must have been in his 20s) but also how so much about them prefigures the forms and approach of the later work around the Byzantium period of the 1990s. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Hot off the press

Ella Cole, who works as the archivist at the Trust carefully cataloguing Dave's work, invited Alan Birch to come over today to the studio to take a look at the etching and drypoint plates that have been salvaged from the work left on Dave's death. 

Alan is a superb print-maker and teacher himself, well known locally for his wryly witty print-making. Ella wanted to find out if Alan would be interested in resurrecting any of Dave's plates to make some new editions.

Dave made a lot prints, especially during the 1960s and 70s but, rather typically, once he had taken a proof or two he moved on to the next thing. So although we have a number of prints in the collection they are mostly scrappy and damaged. Dave never got into the habit of running an edition from his plates, or even taken real care of the prints he made.

We wondered if Alan felt it would be possible to make new editions from any of the surviving plates, and if so, was it worth it and would he be interested in helping us. 

In the end Alan and Ella found around 50 plates, many very large, that Alan felt would be worth resurrecting:

Some of  the plates were done using an unusual technique, possibly invented by Dave, of gluing metal onto metal to create 'relief prints'. I remember that the print technicians at Manchester Art College hated these as they easily damaged the expensive felt blankets used in the etching process:

There are also some lovely large steel plates that should make really great prints. Alan offered to help with all of this but we could see that it's a big job, that will probably take a good number of weeks' work to complete. Funds will need to be raised to get this done, but we all felt the results could be very special indeed, and we should start the process of getting art galleries with a special interest in print involved with the project.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Astronaut with a one inch hole

Thanks to Boo Gilbraith I was sent the above picture with the story that this oil painting by Dave Pearson, clearly from the Astronaut series of 1960, was sold for £320 last week at an auction at Cheffins in Cambridge.

£320 might seem like a major bargain, and it is of course, but the painting was (to quote the catalogue) 'found in a barn and had a one inch hole in it and was in a dirty and distressed condition. Needs a proper frame'. 

Apparently it is signed on the reverse 'D. Pearson/Rome and Abbey in Painting' - Dave's submission for the Rome and Abbey Scholarship.

So, a fascinating story and thank you, Boo. I wonder what the events were that led to an early student work by Dave Pearson ending up in a barn?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Early fanciful drawings

Tuesday is the day I try and overlap with Ella at the studio in Haslingden. So today we met up and, among other things, discussed where she was in cataloguing the work left by Dave. 

Ella has reached number 9050 in the catalogue. She is currently investigating the contents of the dozen or so red plastic folders stored in the roof mezzanine space. These contain a wide range of work, mostly from Dave's early period. The batch she is in the process of cataloguing are gouache, pen and ink works on paper and I would guess from the early 1960s, when Dave was in his mid 20s and studying at college. 

They're an odd mixture; Ella felt that it looks like Dave is illustrating a story of some kind. There are lots of monsters, and hillsides with steps cut into them, so it's mainly rather fanciful subject matter, and I suppose these drawings look forward to the late Bestiary work. Altogether, they are a collection of very interesting early pieces.

Friday, 3 April 2015

York - and prints.

First just to say that the current "Transitions' exhibition of Dave Pearson's work at the According to McGee gallery in York has been extended by a few days, and will now close only after Tuesday 15th April.

Margaret Mytton, one third of the Dave Pearson Trust, is now in Beijing delivering a presentation on Dave Pearson's prints at the China Academy of Fine Arts. Printmaking is something not normally associated with Dave's output, but in fact he was a brilliant printmaker. Especially from the late 1960s through to the early '80s he produced a wide range of etchings and drypoint as part of his Van Gogh and Calendar Customs series. Few were produced in editions - Dave was too impatient and frequently moved on after producing an artists' proof. But at their best these works show Dave's sensitivity and wonderful drawing skill. The example above, 'Vincent's Bible', is a one example. 

But, typically, Dave also experimented with the medium, and when Margaret met Ella recently to collect examples from the studio to take to China, Ella wrote  "Interestingly what came out of a closer examination of the plates was a deeper understanding of some of the techniques Dave employed. On some plates it is clear that he has etched and used drypoint together. He also employed the unusual technique of attaching metal cut outs to the plate. It seemed he tried to attach these 'add on's'  first by tying them on with wire and we can see the plate is actually punched with holes for this purpose in some places,and glued on in other places. Other prevalent techniques included aquatint. We also found plates that apparently have never seen a press, as well as one or two that haven't been cleaned since they were last inked up!" Below are a few of Margaret's photos of these plates:

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Ella was away from the studio on a course for her 'other job' at the Whitaker Museum today, but she left me a text about news of some sales from the exhibition in York, and the discovery of some rather special oil studies.These are three of the 10 paintings, each about 60 x 50 cms in size:

In the workroom at Dave's studio there's a mezzanine area that we haven't looked at since moving back in after the building work. Ella has now completed cataloguing work on the top floor, but hasn't yet looked at this mezzanine. It contains a few dozen shaped canvases from the Byzantium series, and a some paper-mache works from the 60s. But there's also about 15 red plastic cases, and she has started to open them one by one - these pieces are from the second box.  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

According to McGee

An enjoyable opening yesterday at the According to McGee Gallery in a rather cold York. 

From the left - Kay Kennedy, Ella Cole and Dave's grandson Tobias.

Greg McGee (left) discussing Dave's 'The Hat of Candles'.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Hanging the show

Yesterday was the day for hanging Dave's work in the According to McGee Gallery in York in readiness for Saturdays opening of the Transitions exhibition. 

Just as with last years 'Dave Pearson: Colourist' show at the gallery, Graham Breakwell took the train to York from Shrewsbury and was a big help in hanging the paintings. This year, with less heavy framed pieces, it was an easier job than in 2014, although I had been anxious as to how the work would look together. This was probably because the pieces were not drawn from one of Dave's series of works, with their natural coherence, but from a transitional period in which he was experimenting both with subject matter and oil paint technique. In fact I went away feeling very happy about the exhibition, in which both large and smaller pieces seemed to hang together naturally, with an unexpected coherence and conviction.

Monday, 16 March 2015


This week we'll be hanging a new exhibition of Dave's paintings at the According to McGee Gallery in York. The gallery is opposite Clifford's Tower, so very close to the centre of town, at 8 Tower Street YO1 9SA. It opens this Saturday and will remain open for three weeks, closing on Sunday 12th April. 

The exhibition will show 30 or so oil paintings and drawings that look at the period in the mid-1980s when Dave was moving away from an extensive series of work inspired by English Calendar Customs, and particularly the Abbots Bromley Horned Dance. During this period of 5 or more years he began to explore different painterly approaches, and also reconnected with conventional forms of painting - still lives, interiors and self-portraiture.

The exhibition mainly focuses on his work in oils and his experiments with brushwork and texture, and which eventually led to his most ambitious and wildly epic series of work - 'Byzantium' and 'Journey to Byzantium', both based on W.B.Yeats' poem.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A Hospital Series

Ella Cole is usually to be found, Mondays and Tuesdays, at Dave's old studio in Haslingden, where she is painstakingly putting together a catalogue of his work. On Tuesdays I try and spend a couple hours with her. Cataloguing the collection started in 2009, shortly after Dave's death, and I managed to catalogue about 1500 pieces over three or four years. In 2011 the Trust asked Ella to continue this work in a more methodical way. She started on the top floor, of three (plus a cellar), and has nearly completed cataloguing all the work on that floor - currently there are over 8,500 pieces in the catalogue. 

The four gouache and ink drawings above were discovered in an folder of work, and they appear to be studies for a commission Dave had, probably from Pete Senior of Hospital Arts. They're exceptionally beautiful and there were about 40 such paintings, each about 40cms x 30cms is size, 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A new setting

Rawtenstall's Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery has reopened this weekend after a short closure during which they renovated the downstairs bar restaurant along with the corridors and stairwell. It now looks really stunning - and some well chosen Dave Pearson pieces , secondary panels from his 'Byzantium' series, really truly wonderful in this setting, offset by the new dark grey decor of the walls. 

Go along to the Whitaker for a great meal - and to see a group of Dave's larger pieces of work in a new setting.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Selecting work

Today was spent selecting paintings for the forthcoming 'Transitions' exhibition in York. It looks like being largely a fascinating mix of rarely-seen oil paintings from the period in the late 1980s when Dave was working towards the two epic 'Byzantium' series. 

Jackie Taylor and Julian Williams from the Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery also called by and selected a number of pieces from 'Byzantium' to include in the refurbished Whitaker, which re-opens this coming Saturday.

'Transitions' opens at the 'According to McGee' Gallery8 Tower St, York, North Yorkshire YO1 9SA on Saturday 21st March and closes Sunday 12th April 2015.
The newly refurbished Whitaker in Whitaker Park, Haslingden Road, Rawtenstall, Lancashire BB4 6RE reopens Saturday, 14th February 2015. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Dates for York 2015

To confirm that we've now agreed dates with the 'According to McGee' Gallery in York for an exhibition of Dave's work. Opening will be on Saturday 21st March and the show will run until Sunday 12th April 2015. A total of three weeks, but covering four weekends and running during the Easter holidays.

We think this is going to be a great way to celebrate Spring. The show, we've agreed, will be called 'Transitions' and will explore some of the small-scale work that Dave created in-between the periods when he was concentrating on his major themes. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

An exhibition in York soon...

We're waiting for confirmation from Greg and Ails McGee who have the 'According to McGee' Gallery in York of a date for an early Spring exhibition of Dave's work.

The exhibition we held at the gallery last year was a big success, and Greg and Ails have asked the Trust to put together a second show for the space. The date they suggested was late February but we need a little longer to put something good together. I'm hoping for mid-March through Easter, but still are waiting for the gallery to confirm this. 

I'm thinking about what aspect of Dave's work to explore in the show. ATM is a small gallery and so lends itself to showing smaller pieces of work, such as work on paper. But there isn't much time to get much work framed, and so I'm considering looking at the output on canvas of a transitional period in Dave's output. One possibility is the period in the mid and late 1980's which spans the period after the Calendar Customs series and before the start of work on Sailing to Byzantium which, with Byzantium, occupied Dave for almost the whole of the next decade. 

The example above is a canvas about 1 metre square, and typical of this transitional period. It's also a time in which Dave painted the stunning 'Jarrow March' triptych that hangs in the Horse + Bamboo office, and you can see similarities in the composition and drawing.