By Katrina Ffiske.
The Vanner Gallery in Salisbury launched an exhibition of John Blackburn’s work on 12 January. John, a modern artist who painted in England and New Zealand, sadly passed away in October 2022. It made the evening very poignant.
Jacquiline Cresswell, curator of John Blackburn, Revisitation Painting, told me how moving it was that John had helped choose the paintings.
There was a wonderful warm, celebratory feel to the evening, and it was an honour for us to meet John’s family including his widow, Maude, his daughters Kerstin and Victoria, and his niece Kate.
David Christie, manager of the Vanner Gallery said: “John’s reputation was established in the early 1960s. Towards the end of the decade he stepped back from painting only to begin exhibiting again in 2006 with a show in Folkestone. It was here his association with Osborne Samuel, a London based gallery began.
“Last summer, Jacquiline Cresswell, brought Peter Osborne to meet me and proposed that, as part of John’s 90th birthday celebrations, we bring his work to Salisbury, we jumped at the chance and Jacquiline curated the show.
“It has been such an honour to work with John’s art,” Jacquline said. “Choosing the paintings was an interesting story. David and I visited the studio, outside of Canterbury, where John, his wife Maude and daughter Kerstin welcomed us.
“ John was so excited, energetically marching us around showing us an extensive collection of his work. We spent many hours
in the studio where hundreds
of canvases were stacked against walls.
“John’s face lit up as he revealed his latest works, painted between 2018-2022, it was his enthusiasm for these paintings that caught my interest.
“John talked about revisiting his paintings from the early 1960’s. Revisiting his previous work is very much part of
his process, continually experimenting and re-evaluating.
“He explained that something truly remarkable is revealed in the process of revisitation, as the work is not a recreation, but a return based on a reflection, on his memories, stored images and recorded work.”
Commenting on John’s work, David said: “The works have such depth and quiet power, displaying a huge talent across a wide range of styles, from the calm and contemplative pieces in his signature palette of whites and greys to the more edgy, and bold, pieces with starker colours and much thicker paint.”
Revisitation Paintings, runs until 18 February