The Arts last night
Paintings 1945-1965 by Anthony Earnshaw. Leeds Institute Gallery. Until January 28.
FOR SOME YEARS now, alert viewers at representative art exhibitions in the West Riding have shown a slightly startled interest in the intricately textured rather enigmatic water-colours of Anthony Earnshaw.
"Who is this Anthony Earnshaw," they have asked, "and why does he paint these fascinating works that look like some ancient, worn painting or the ground plan of a Roman villa?"
Now all (or at least enough) is revealed. Eighty paintings and drawings by Mr. Earnshaw are on view at the Leeds Institute Gallery, where monthly exhibitions are being organised under the auspices of Leeds College of Art.
The artist himself has contributed an entertaining autobiographical introduction to the catalogue.
No formal training
Mr. Earnshaw, it seems has had no formal training and has worked all his adult life in engineering factories; yet he has produced this impressive body of work. He was born in 1924 and has lived in Leeds since 1933.
Those water-colours that have arrested our attention in mixed exhibitions are the subject of an explanatory note in the catalogue in which he says that "they seem to live a secret life of their own."
Making his meaning clearer, he adds that , if one is in the purposeful world of say, a railway station, "one needs to take only a few paces to the side to find one has entered another facet of the same reality, the world of dark corners and neglect. Sounds are subdued and one assumes the role of a sinister watcher."
Go and look at his picture "Two Wheels - the sole Possessions of an old Ragamuffin," and you will understand what he is trying to say.
His paintings seem to be based upon the litter of a derelict railway - yard or of an engineering workshop; decrepit turntables, rails that suddenly end in an empty space, relics of machinery that could be a head or a Chinese dragon.
His imagination has been stimulated by Paul Klee (see the witty "Looking for Four"), by Graham Sutherland, and latterly by Magritte. But his vision, and his odd wry humour, are his own; and his subject matter is very close to us all.
His catalogue notes are most rewarding; I shall keep them. - W.T.O.