Biggest exhibition to mark late artist

THE 10th anniversary of the death of prolific artist John Western who drowned in the River Deben will be marked by his biggest ever exhibition.The range of exhibits on display at the barn where he worked capture the essence of the colourful, carefree and charismatic character.

THE 10th anniversary of the death of prolific artist John Western who drowned in the River Deben will be marked by his biggest ever exhibition.

The range of exhibits on display at the barn where he worked capture the essence of the colourful, carefree and charismatic character.

Among the 200-plus exhibits are a range of highly detailed pictures of public schools, studies of bygone life in rural Suffolk and well-loved scenes.

The attention to detail in the fine pencil drawings, the sense of mood and romance conjured up in his watercolours and Mr Western's passion for recording changes in the Suffolk countryside shine through in the new exhibition. There are also stamps he illustrated.


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But the exhibition is not just about the artistic talents of Mr Western who died aged 44. The display, put together by a group of friends, gives a riveting insight into his life. His love of motorcycling and motorcars is documented by a 1930's look-alike sports car designed with Brian Surridge, and a rebuilt and styled early 1960's Triumph that Mr Western owned.

Mr Western, a former pupil of Cretingham primary school and Framlingham Modern School, set up the Cretingham Crank Company with Gilbert Sills and John Bridges when he lived in the village and this was where he designed custom motorcycles.

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In the early 1980's Mr Western's interest in barns took a new dimension when he heard of one being taken down in Mendlesham. He bought and reerected this in his garden at Monewden, near Woodbridge, where it became his studio and gallery.

The barn is at Ramsey Cottage, Clopton Road, and Gilbert Sills, a friend of Mr Western's who bought the property, is using it for the exhibition.

Mr Sills said: ''Interest in John has not waned since his death and this will be the biggest display of his work but I am amazed at the amount of interest that is being shown.

''There will be work on display that a lot of people will never have seen and this exhibition is giving John the opportunity to reestablish himself as a Suffolk artist and show what a good artist he was. It will bring the work of a very talented artist to a wider audience through a display of sketches, cartoons, etchings and watercolours.

''From an early age John was making sketches of subjects that were of particular interest to him. This became focussed on the fast disappearing way of rural life in Suffolk, which he captured in his drawings of decaying buildings and long silent farm machinery.

''John's progression to watercolour added a new dimension to his work, which was clearly evident in his exhibition on Suffolk Rivers. From his boat he was able to capture familiar subjects from a new perspective, often being set against a misty morning or fading sunlight.

''Some of his river scenes continue his passion for recording ancient buildings and ruins, such as water mills and decaying hulks on the banks of the Rivers Deben, Alde, Orwell or Stour.''

The exhibition is at Ramsey Cottage, Clopton Road, Monewden, from April 18 to May 18. It is open from 10am to 5pm every day.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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