Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lowry's Matchstick Men in Salford

By John Hartery

'Don't go thinking I'm trying to put over some message I just painted what I saw.

'The Lowry Arts Centre  is tucked away on the Salford Quays near Manchester. Its surrounded by the massive new Media City and that dreadful thing, an outlet mall. Over the way is the huge edifice of the Evil Empire. The complex contains the usual; a theatre, dining opportunities, multimedia space and galleries.

It was the gallery area that was my destination to see the work of  the eponymous Lowry. LS Lowry lived from 1887-1976 and he is most famous for his paintings that chronicled the industrial setting of Northern England with his distinctive crowd scenes of stick like figures against  smokey grey wastelands.

I took the tour which was expertly and enthusiastically conducted by Angie and using a sample  of the paintings on view we learned that Lowry's painting style placed him as a maverick and he doesn't belong to an 'ism'. There is a fine range of his work on display including many those only  vaguely familiar with his work will recognise. Lowry's own life was simple he worked  as a rent collector.  His family originally lived in an affluent suburb of Manchester before settling in the Salford inner city amongst the people he later characterised. After his parents died he lived alone for 40 years. He  left a significant amount in his will to a Caroline Lowry, no relation, whose mother had contacted him for advice on how her daughter could become a painter.

There are plenty of paintings to see that, collectively, trace his life starting with  early still life drawings from night classes at the Manchester Municipal

College of Arts  then  his unique style of painting working class life in the mill towns and finally, in later life, he painted some landscape pieces including 'the Sea'. Seemingly, much of his work consists of just 5 colours.

I am hugely drawn to his crowd scenes and its always a pleasure to admire the apparent simplicity that illustrates an era when England led the world based on a combination of working class  labour and machinery.

I understand that plans are in hand for a larger exhibition in the Summer. Well worth a trip if one is in the North West of England. Even  if you have to dodge that awful outlet mall!

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