Salvation through art in Alderley Edge (with audio)
Artist Janice Sylvia Brock from Alderley Edge has found world wide fame, just like she promised her mum she would. Paul Mackenzie reports
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Janice Sylvia Brock can trace her artistic career back to a specific moment in her childhood. As an 11-year-old in the hospital bed she had been confined to for a year and a half, she asked the nurse for paints and paper.
‘I woke up and decided I wanted to paint a picture,’ she said. ‘While I was painting I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.’
Now 60, her work hangs in galleries and private collections all over the world. She recently sold a painting at the Saatchi Gallery for �10,000 - a price second in that sale only to a piece by Banksy.
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As a young girl Janice struggled with juvenile arthritis but the nurse strapped a brush to her left hand and started a lifelong passion.
‘Nearly all my childhood and early years were spent in hospital,’ she said. ‘Painting was like a new start for me. It was a form of therapy for me.
‘Right from the start I knew it was the answer for me. I promised my mum and dad I would be world famous one day. Now my work is world famous and people collect it.’
Manchester-born Janice now divides her time between studios in Alderley Edge and Barbados but still suffers with ill health. She was given just five years to live when her kidneys failed and although that was 40 years ago,
Roy Jones, her partner - in her life and her business - said: ‘She is in constant pain. Her hands are still badly affected, they are noticeably deformed.’
That hasn’t prevented her carving an international reputation and attracting an army of fans, including Oprah Winfrey who is now interested in her work.
‘I was invited to a reception at the White House when George Bush was president but I was busy that day so I had to send my apologies,’ Janice added. They weren’t too offended - two of her paintings now hang in the Presidential private collection.
‘I’ve been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace next year, too. I’m looking forward to that. I hope I get to meet Prince Philip. I’ve met him before, when I was five at Belle Vue and I was a cadet with St John Ambulance. He asked me what I wanted to do when I was older, I said I wanted to be a nurse or a dancer.’
The Caribbean connection began about 20 years ago when Janice honeymooned there with her second husband. She was instantly smitten and the influence of the region on her work is obvious - her book Impressions of the Caribbean is now almost sold out.
And she has tried to influence life there too, raising thousands of pounds for disabled people and giving art classes in prisons, hospitals and nursing homes.
Her work, most of it in bold oils, has been likened to that of Matisse and is as sensual as it is humorous. ‘I’m not surprised by the level of interest in my work but I do feel very blessed,’ she said. ‘It’s wonderful that people love my work enough to buy it. My curvaceous women and sexy fruit have done well and I have started a theme of oval faces which is starting to sell world wide too.’