Review of Trevor Grimshaw Exhibition Shades of Grey
A POWERFUL VISIONARY QUALITY that transforms the way we see familiar objects and places - That's the hallmark of many great artists, and one that is clear to be seen in the drawings and paintings of Trevor Grimshaw.
His main subject matter is the grim northern industrial landscape as it used to be: Northern towns set in smoky valleys, murky canals, basins and ponds, railway viaducts, signals and telegraph poles, railway bridges with steam trains emerging from the fog, vast rutted areas of black earth and waste ground with the sky reflected in puddles, factory chimneys pouring smoke into a heavy atmosphere that hangs above the scene.
As you look into the pictures you can almost hear the whistle of the factory hooter, the huffing and puffing of a distant steam train, and feel the cold clammy air on your skin. The pictures capture the feeling of walking to the factory on a cold winters morning many years ago, and stopping to look out over the dismal grey townscape that is your home.
I only found out about Trevor Grimshaw in 2001 when I read an article in the Manchester Evening News about the artist's untimely death due to a fire at his home in Hyde. Some of his pictures were reproduced in the paper, and even at small size, I was captivated by them.
They seemed to capture the essence of how I remember the north of England as a child growing up in Stockport, an atmosphere that seems far removed from the world we live in today. Most people found the industrial north ugly, depressing and certainly not the sort of thing you would want hanging up on your living room wall.
Only a small number of artists turned their attention to this subject matter and found beauty in it. Trevor Grimshaw is foremost among them and has probably left us the clearest and most powerful impression of how our towns and cities looked until not that long ago.
It's a personal and stylised vision. Most places are not recognisable, and in those that are, for example the picture of Stockport, the elements have been rearranged, such that the church appears on the wrong side of the viaduct, as in a mirror image.
In the 'railway journey from Hyde to Manchester' series of pictures, which takes up half a wall of the gallery, there are no recognisable landmarks. The city centre has an anonymous yet familiar appearance.
It's as if the memory of your home town has been wiped clean and you are arriving in it again for the first time, discovering it afresh.
In all Trevor Grimshaw's pictures, elements are carefully placed with more of an eye for balance and composition than for factual accuracy. Often the perspective is distorted, playing tricks with the eyes and making the steam train appear as if it is about to take off.
The paradox of Trevor Grimshaw's work is that although his is a personal, stylised and selective vision, it is a more truthful rendering of what the north used to be like than many a photograph. That's the power of the painter or illustrator, who can draw on the imagination in a way that's more difficult with photography, though it's getting easier with digital imaging.
Trevor Grimshaw had some high profile admirers - Edward Heath and LS Lowry bought his pictures in the 1970's, as well as many collectors and gallery owners, including Colin Jellicoe. But since then, his work - like the industrial landscape he depicted - disappeared from view and was apparently forgotten - until now.
His daughter, Kate Meredith, has gathered together over 300 of his works and assembled them into a superbly presented show that everyone who wants to rediscover our local area as it used to be should go and see.
'Shades of Grey' A retrospective exhibition of the work of
Trevor Grimshaw was at Stockport Art Gallery 24th April - 22 May 2004.
Written by Aidan O'Rourke