Art treasures in Haslingden house
Dave Pearson was one of Lancashire's great undiscovered artists. Now two friends are out to spread the word about his talent. Emma Mayoh reports <br/>MAIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
Walk down Manchester Road in Haslingden and you wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But hidden behind the walls of one of the street’s many stone buildings is a valuable art collection.
They were created by Haslingden artist Dave Pearson. He dedicated his life to art but few people know his name. Since he was a young boy, painting portraits of his mother, to the works he was producing just days before he died of cancer in 2008, the former Manchester College of Art and Design tutor was rarely without a paintbrush in his hand.
His life’s work, which includes paintings, sculpture, prints, multimedia presentations and three dimensional tableaux, forms a collection of more than 15,000 pieces. Until recently they had been stored in his former studio and in his home, a short distance away. After his death, friends Bob Frith and Margaret Mytton decided to make more people aware of his work.
The pair, who formed the Dave Pearson Trust, spent months clearing out his studio. Dave, due to ill health, had been unable to access the building for several years and the vast property was not only filled with thousands of his paintings and sculptures but also the remnants of his life.
Bob, a friend since he was one of Dave’s students, said: ‘It was very sad cleaning it out; every place gets a bit sad when it has been left. As well as all of his works, there was also lots of rubbish.
‘At his memorial service we realised we needed to do something. Wespoke to his son, Chris, and decided to go ahead.’
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Bob raised the money to buy Dave’s old studio and the thousands of art works had to be removed so the building could be renovated. Bob, a theatre director, and Margaret have spent the past few months transferring that huge collection back to Manchester Road, including huge pieces that would fill an entire wall. They have created exhibition space as well as started the monumental task of cataloguing each piece of art.
Margaret said: ‘Dave carried on working until pretty much the end. It was two days before he died that he stopped. Even when he couldn’t get out of bed he would still draw.
‘He was always working on something. So when we came to look at everything there was so much of it, it was difficult to know where to start. This is a lifetime’s collection for two or three people but it is important everything is catalogued so we know the extent of it.’
Dave, who also taught at the Harris College in Preston, was a prolific artist but he never courted publicity or that keen to sell his work. He took his inspiration from various sources including Vincent Van Gogh and he constructed large installations including The Potato Eaters and The Bedroom. The former Royal Academy pupil exhibited at various galleries, including at The Bluecoat on Liverpool, the Serpentine and Hayward galleries in London.
He was also an active member of the Globe Arts Centre in Burnley with whom he worked on a project with where several hundred artworks were displayed at Rawtenstall Market. He also produced a body of work inspired by the WB Yeats poem Sailing to Byzantium. It consists of 120 pieces and once filled Manchester’s Holden Gallery from floor to ceiling.
Bob said: ‘His home was incredible. He created all sorts of things there including having black crows hanging off the stairs. We both used to paint on the walls of the house too.
‘He would become so involved in his work. If I wasn’t there he would forget to eat and would only eat biscuits and drink lemonade. He was an incredible person and one thing we have both picked up is that Dave was the biggest influence on many people’s lives.’
Bob and Margaret have now started to sell some of Dave’s collection to create space - numerous buyers have expressed an interest - and prices are going up. They are also talking to a film producer who would like to produce a documentary.
Margaret said: ‘I’m really pleased with how far we have come but there is still a long way to go. We’re taking it one step at a time. Dave was a great inspiration to us, as he was to everyone who met him.
‘It’s far better that people are now enjoying his work rather than it just being stored. He’s a considerable artist and he needs to be known. We feel as if it is our job to create something so that Dave will be remembered.’
The Dave Pearson Trust is trying to raise money to move the project on. If you would like to help please contact Bob or Margaret at email@example.com.