Quentin Blake exhibition opens at The Artworks in Halifax
- Credit: (c) Quentin Blake
Much-loved artist Sir Quentin Blake is exhibiting in Halifax in spite of his former pupil’s behaviour, writes Paul Mackenzie.
John Ross fears that Quentin Blake may have seen him as a loud-mouthed northerner back in the 1970s, but that hasn’t stopped the world-famous artist agreeing to exhibit at John’s gallery in Halifax.
Blake was John’s tutor at the Royal College of Art and John admits he was far from being a model pupil. ‘I’d been on the fine art course at Leeds and that was possibly the wildest course in Europe, or even the world. Then I went to the Royal College and it was far more refined and gentrified but I took my Leeds with me.
‘I was a loud-mouthed, cocksure northerner and let’s say my breath didn’t always smell of Horlicks, but Quentin was always a gentleman. He was very patient and tolerant.’
And the two have been re-united for a show which is now running at The Artworks, the independent art school, gallery and studios John at Shaw Lodge Mills in 2008.
‘I was a little apprehensive about contacting him again after all these years because of my behaviour back then,’ John added. ‘Quentin is offered exhibitions all over the world all the time but he wrote back to say yes to us straight away.
‘There is a clear relationship between what we do – our work with people of all ages and our pioneering programme with the NHS, particularly in the area of mental health – and what he supports and believes in.
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‘He has been a powerful voice in the importance of art, particularly drawing, in schools and hospitals which makes him the perfect fit for The Artworks and all that we stand for.’
The exhibition, The Bulging Portfolio of Quentin Blake, runs until June 30th and features an extensive collection of Blake’s work from across his career, his recent work with hospitals and schools, his many collaborations with artists, writers and musicians as well work from some of his wonderful personal projects.
While he John’s tutor at the RCA Sir Quentin was also working as a cartoonist and illustrator and since then he has written and illustrated scores of books and has enjoyed celebrated partnerships with many outstanding writers of children’s literature including Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen and David Walliams.
On display alongside the former Children’s Laureate’s original and printed work are roughs, sketches, end papers and his books, all aimed to open a window on the process and journey behind applied illustration and the professional world of children’s books.
John launched The Artworks almost a decade ago when his former landlord bought the mill and wanted art in it. Within months of opening, the financial crash prompted the landlord to sell the mill and John added: ‘We have gone on from then on a shoe-string. It costs us thousands of pounds every month to pay for everything but we’ve not been in anyone’s pocket and I’m quite proud of that.
‘I’m hopeful that having an exhibition of this calibre will raise our profile and help open a few doors. Quentin Blake is arguably the most famous English artist alive today and for us to have this exhibition is wonderful.
‘People have grown up with his illustrations, they had his books read to them when they were children and they have read them to their children.’
The bulging portfolio of Quentin Blake, The Artworks, Halifax, April 1st-June 30th. Opening hours: Thurs-Sun, 12pm-3pm (including bank holidays). Admission free.