Ipswich Art School Gallery, High Street, Ipswich, running till the 30th June.
An engaging mini-retrospective exhibition of the work of Suffolk artist Ken Cuthbert features as part of this year’s Ipswich Art Society annual exhibition (now in its 142nd year).
Back Garden in the Snow, 1972
Ken is a former President of the Society and teacher to many of the Art Society members, including this year’s winner of the Mayor’s Award, David King, whose work “Felixstowe Cranes” shows a shared interest with his teacher in the industrialised landscape.
Dykes, Canals, Rives and Beaches
One of Ken’s earliest memories was of a holiday as a young boy in Thorpeness in 1937 where “at the mere’s edge the water and grass were one. Thus, one of my recurring themes took root, in dykes, canals, rivers and beaches.” Featured in the exhibition are a number of works reflecting this, including a very recent oil “Royal Military Canal, Warehorn” painted in 2018 from an original conté crayon drawing produced in 1957, one of many versions of that drawing reflecting Ken’s fascination with this theme.
Royal Military Canal, Warehorn, 2018
Cor Visser and Dock-End
Working in Ipswich as a government inspector (Weights and Measures), Ken’s formal art training began in the early 1950s when he met Ipswich-based Dutch artist and tutor, Cor Visser. Ipswich Docks was where Cor Visser’s boat and studio were situated and Ken “felt a deep and immediate response” to the romantic dereliction of the Dock End of Ipswich Port. In the 1969 documentary “Painters in the Modern World”, Ken is shown walking through the run-down Dock End amongst “discarded metal, machines that die, to be revived in his imagination.”
“Dock-End Scrapheap” 1959, a large and complicated oil where lines and form come out of the chaos.
Certainly, the heavily industrialised dock area of Ipswich inspired many of Ipswich’s post-war artists, including Colin Moss whose “Ipswich from the New Cut” is owned by Colchester & Ipswich Museums.
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Painters in the Modern World
Much of the work was (and still is) completed in Ken’s own studio usually from drawings made on the spot, (drawings that are “immaculate and worthy of exhibition” according to gallery owner Denis Taplin). The “Painters in the Modern World” documentary gives a fascinating glimpse of the artist at work.
British Film Institute (BFI) Player “Painters in the Modern World”
For Ken inspiration came not only from the Dock End, but from the wider industrialised landscape in Suffolk and beyond. A number of the works in the exhibition reflect this featuring everything from “tank traps and blockhouses on the Suffolk coast to harbour walls in the South … hard, brutalist shapes set in romantic landscapes.”
Part of the retrospective is devoted to Ken’s recording of the construction of significant buildings in the area such as the maternity block at Ipswich Hospital and a number of drawings detailing the construction of Sizewell A nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast.
Inspiration in Dordogne
In the 1980s Ken, and his wife Mavis, bought a cottage in the Dordogne, captivated by both the colour and the landscape of the area. Colin Moss, then art critic at the EADT, felt the move to France enhanced and intensified Ken’s use of colour, taking his work to a new level. As the owner of one of Ken’s paintings from this period, I wholeheartedly agree! The work, “Prieu Dieu”, enlivens the wall of my sitting room and never fails to delight the eye on even the most downcast day.
“Prieu Dieu” 1993, pictured with the artist Ken Cuthbert
Now in his 90th year, Ken Cuthbert continues to paint, exhibit and teach and this mini retrospective exhibition gives a just glimpse of the breadth of his work.
Ken Cuthbert’s retrospective continues at the Ipswich Art School Gallery until June 30th alongside Ipswich Art Society’s annual members’ exhibition. The exhibition features 275 paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures by Members, Friends and the general public, spread over both floors of the gallery.