It is the mission of art school and gallery director John Ross, from Huddersfield, to bring the work of ‘important’ contemporary artists to West Yorkshire.

With this in mind he and his fellow directors at The Artworks 1830 Gallery in Calderdale have already hosted shows by notable contemporaries such as cartoonist Ralph Steadman and Huddersfield-born digital artist Phil Shaw.

And now, opening on Sunday, the gallery, in Shaw Lane, Halifax (opposite The Shay stadium), is to showcase the work of a man described as ‘the illustrators’ illustrator’ – Paul Slater.

The major retrospective, The Full English, will feature a large body of work, both illustrations and paintings, which have been described as having the surreal quality of Rene Magritte’s compositions combined with the painterly realism of John Singer Sargent.

John Ross explained why the 1830 Gallery was keen to mount the exhibition: “The kind of work we are seeing in many galleries these days is all conceptual and it’s such a shame. We want to broaden things out a bit and show that there is some great quality stuff out there that deserves to be seen.”

Paul agrees that the art world’s attention is currently focused away from representational art.

He said: “I’m happy for people to do whatever they like. It’s great to have variety.

“But the conceptual artists get all the publicity and figurative art doesn’t get a look in any more. Not many people are championing the cause.”

A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Paul worked as an illustrator for newspapers such as The Times, as well as magazines, before breaking into advertising, with clients such as Volkswagen, British Airways and Shell.

Postmodern Pentathlon by Paul Slater
 

He takes a uniquely eccentric view of British quirkiness and is known for his wild inventiveness.

His work has appeared on the cover of Time and Readers Digest and he is also known for his caricatures, with many victims of his
lampooning eye – from Andrew Lloyd Weber, Damien Hirst, Richard
Branson, David Gilmour and Louis Vuitton to Frank Bruno – actually buying up the images.

“I suppose I shouldn’t say too much about Damien Hirst,” said Paul, “because he owns one of my pictures. It’s a picture I did for The Times and it was about him.”

Born in 1953 in the Lancashire town of Burnley, Paul now lives near London. He began his career in art during the ‘golden age’ of illustration when artists could make a good living from newspapers and periodicals.

Although he spent 25 years ‘informing people through pictures’ Paul says he has no particular axe to grind or hidden agenda and his work today is ‘nonsensical’.

“It is willfully mischievous,” he said, “If an idea appeals to me or makes me laugh and I can see it on a big scale I will have an attempt at painting it.

“I’m not satirical, I’m not a deep thinker. I make it all up. I want to create my own world so if, for example, I want to paint a motorbike then I will do it from memory. Fortunately, I have an extremely good visual memory.”

His show in Halifax has come about through his friendship with John, also a former student at the Royal College of Art.

However, as John points out: “He is a friend of mine and I have had exhibitions in London with him, but we’re having an exhibition of his work here because of the quality of it. We want to show some of the best work that this country has to offer.”

The Full English closes on Sunday, November 9. The gallery is open Thursday to Saturday from 11am – 4pm, and on Sunday noon – 4pm. On Saturday, November 1, Paul Slater will present a series of surreal and off-the-wall drawing activities based on his work as part of The Artworks involvement with the national ‘Big Draw’ event.

For further details check out www.theartworks.org.uk