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Art: David Blackburn, a master of the landscape

HE IS a renowned artist with an international reputation and his roots firmly in Huddersfield.

HE IS a renowned artist with an international reputation and his roots firmly in Huddersfield.

And at the latest exhibition of his work in London, David Blackburn’s paintings are set to command both considerable attention and big price tags.

The single image, A Landscape Vision No 65, has been chosen as the cover for the exhibition catalogue.

At £16,500 it is the most expensive work in the 20 piece collection but perhaps also the one which typifies what David’s work has come to signify, that of a landscape visionary.

The exhibition, David Blackburn: Works From The Last Decade, opens at the Hart Gallery in Islington early next month.

David, now 71, was born in Huddersfield and won a scholarship to Huddersfield School of Art in the mid 1950s.

Four years later he went to study textile design at the Royal College of Art in London.

It must have been an exciting time to be there at the start of the 1960s.

Contemporaries included David Hockney, a fellow student and friend.

But while Hockney followed the American inspired route of Pop Art, David Blackburn was drawn to the European landscape tradition.

In the early 60s he met the Austrian artist and scholar, Gerhard Frankl, who it is thought helped influence David’s decision to work in pastel.

From the Royal College David went to Australia to teach.

He stayed there for three years, mostly in Melbourne.

The light and the sense of space in Australia must have offered a huge contrast in visual terms to the light and landscape that he had experienced in his native Yorkshire.

His travels deep into the heart of Australia saw him produce work which glowed and vibrated with colour.

And when he returned to England, many saw in the work he created in a house in Crosland Moor echoes of his time in Australia.

Over the years, David has been much in demand not just as artist but as painter, tutor and also a visiting professor. He has also had major retrospective exhibitions and residencies.

"Over succeeding decades I have travelled throughout many parts of Australia and much of America," David said as part of an interview to mark his 60th birthday exhibition.

"But my private ‘valley of visions’ remains a mixture of the wet moorlands of Yorkshire and the heat and colour of central Australia."

John Hart has written an introduction for the brochure which accompanies the exhibition. In it, John says that he and his wife have been collecting David’s work since the mid 1970s.

"Not only has his work made dull days bright, it also has enhanced the way we see the landscape," says John.

"I am convinced we now have a heightened awareness of the shapes and patterns in our environment. We are more attune to the effects of light.

"David lives on the margin between the bleak yet often blissfully beautiful moorland of the Pennines and the sometimes grim yet fascinating industrial mill towns of the old West Riding of Yorkshire.

"It is a place that he has returned to throughout his life and where he has based himself this last decade.

"David has immersed himself in this landscape.

"For much of his life he has walked on the moors daily.

"In his youth he was a gifted cross country runner and any run around Huddersfield soon takes you up onto the moors.

"He has also travelled, mainly in north America and Australia where his understanding of those vast spaces and colours were to inform and influence his work and help him develop that ‘handwriting’ in his work that is so distinctive."

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