Suffolk artist Mike Ferrell stages farewell exhibition to satisfy his wanderlust

Tapas, one of Mike Ferrell's personal favourites from his farewell exhibition at Ipswich Town Hall.

Tapas, one of Mike Ferrell's personal favourites from his farewell exhibition at Ipswich Town Hall. Picture: MIKE FERRELL - Credit: Archant

Well travelled East Anglian artist Mike Ferrell is packing his bags, gathering his brushes, and, in just six weeks, will be saying farewell to this green and pleasant land, swapping Suffolk for the mountains of Spain. But, before he goes, he’s leaving us with an exhibition of paintings which explode with colour and movement.

Venice, a picture which had extensive re-oainting, and is now one of Mike Ferrell's personal favouri

Venice, a picture which had extensive re-oainting, and is now one of Mike Ferrell's personal favourites from his farewell exhibition at Ipswich Town Hall. Picture: MIKE FERRELL - Credit: Archant

The exhibition in Ipswich Town Hall features 116 pictures – of varying sizes, from delicate pen and ink studies to vast, colourful canvases depicting market scenes in Marrakesh – of those 116 pictures, 85 have been painted in the last year.

“It’s been an exceptionally productive year. Sometimes it’s like getting blood out of a stone, trying to get a new painting finished, other times, like this, the work just flows.”

For Mike painting is a visual diary. He records the people, the places, the episodes in his life that mean something to him. It’s not enough for there to be a good view, the picture has to have an emotional connection. There has to be a back story for Mike to invest time and energy into creating a painting.

“I paint scenes that I have witnessed and engaged with but people can always bring their own experiences to a painting.”

Becky Falls, Devon, one of Mike Ferrell's personal favourites from his farewell exhibition at Ipswic

Becky Falls, Devon, one of Mike Ferrell's personal favourites from his farewell exhibition at Ipswich Town Hall. Picture: MIKE FERRELL - Credit: Archant


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Primarily a landscape artist, recently Mike has added urban landscapes to his portfolio. Recent trips to Barcelona, Morocco and various coastal towns along the Mediterranean has convinced him that life revolves around the market place, tapas bars and the town square – places where people gather.

It’s something he will become very used to when he moves to a property in a small mountain village in Granada, Spain, in May, after he retires from his publicity manager’s job at the Ipswich Regent.

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“I have always been attracted to big vistas. I love the countryside being laid out before you. I open the shutters of my property in Granada and I am greeted with the sight of the most miraculous mountain range you can imagine and the village is laid out before me.

“I am also going to India later this year and want to return to Morocco very soon, so I will have plenty of material to keep me busy.”

Marrakesh Soak 2, a product of Mike travels and one of his personal favourites from his farewell exh

Marrakesh Soak 2, a product of Mike travels and one of his personal favourites from his farewell exhibition at Ipswich Town Hall. Picture: MIKE fERRELL - Credit: Archant

With so many works on display it’s difficult to know where to start, so we opt for an art version of Desert Island Discs. He has to choose six pictures which give a flavour of the exhibition and his artistic life.

1: Tapas

“I love Tapas bars. There’s lots of food out on display. I am a real foodie anyway so I’m hooked from the start. I love eating things that I have never tried before. I love the energy in the picture, the interactions going on over the counter. It’s a snap shot of community life. It’s one of two paintings I did from my last trip to Granada. It’s a place I adore. It’s so friendly, so vibrant, so warm. It’s not aggressive like Barcelona, it’s much more relaxed, it’s all about friendship and community, which is why I am moving there I suppose. This is one of a pair of paintings and I are say there will be more before the year is out.”

2: Venice

“This is a picture that I repainted quite extensively because it just wasn’t working. I remodelled the view because part of the building in the background was, architecturally, rather bland, so I pushed it further away and added some flags fluttering in the breeze and the picture just sprang into life. I’m very pleased with it now. After the repainting, compositionally, it is much stronger. I started with the copper roofs of the buildings, they were the challenge and I knew if I got those right, everything else would follow.”

3: Horse-Racing, Siena

“This works better from a distance because you get the full effect of the movement of the horses. This was my first attempt at painting animals and I am pleased with the way it came off. Again you get the feeling of energy and power that these races give off.”

4: Two Dancers

“I just love this picture. Just two young dancers watching a performance from the wings, waiting for their cue to return to the stage. I love the fact that they are completely caught up in the moment, absorbed by what is happening out on the stage and the second girl is looking over the shoulder of her friend so she doesn’t miss anything. The fact they’re are surrounded by darkness means you, the viewer, have to supply the details of what they are watching.”

5: Becky Falls, Devon

“This picture is the oldest picture in the exhibition by some margin. It’s 35 years old but I put it in because as I said I am feeling very reflective at the moment. A whole life is about to start, my friends to make, new places to visit but Becky Falls is one of my favourite places on Earth. I have spent many happy times there growing up. I used to go there with many different people. We used to climb up the rocks and have picnics by the side of it. It was our escape from the world. It has a magical atmosphere – which I indicate by adding just a little mist drifting through the trees.”

6: Marrakesh Soak 2

“I find the Soak to be fascinating because it appears to go on forever. You can’t see the end and the sky is obscured by these wooden slats which appear to give the markets a ceiling which not only help diffuse the very intense light but helps lead your eye into the very heart of the painting. I look at this and just remember happy times. It also is full of untold stories for the viewer to interpret. Just who are all these people, where are they going? What is that guy doing in the foreground. In reality he was looking out a map but you can your own story. It’s a picture full of colour, full of bustle, full of life – just like the Soak itself.”

Mike Ferrell: A Farewell Exhibition runs at Ipswich Town Hall until May 6.

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