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Book by octogenarian artist takes a tongue-in-cheek look at gallery-goers confusion over contemporary works

PUBLISHED: 16:19 12 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:39 12 September 2018

Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, whose new 'Getting into Art' book and exhibition looks at gallery-goers relationship with art.
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, whose new 'Getting into Art' book and exhibition looks at gallery-goers relationship with art. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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A Norfolk artist with more than 60 years’ experience under his belt has published a tongue-in-cheek book featuring cartoons inspired by watching gallery visitors trying make sense of contemporary artworks.

One of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

When John Midgley was asked to watch over an exhibition by a group of fellow artists, he had a “sinking feeling” that nobody would come along.

But, rather that sit doing nothing, he put pen to paper and, within three hours, had produced nearly 40 line drawings featuring a comic take on works by artists ranging from Picasso, Van Gogh and Magritte, to Damien Hirst, Banksy and Grayson Perry.

One of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

“The common theme was really my view of seeing the art world from the inside – and it does occasionally have some rather pretentious overtones,” Mr Midgley explained.

And, although I can’t count the times I’ve heard someone say: “Well, my lad could have done that,” or, “Call that art?”, the drawings weren’t intended as a criticism of gallery visitors.”

One of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

After taking the sketches back to his home studio at Mundesley and re-drawing them, he ended up with about 20, which he “road tested” on family and friends.

“I just left them out and watched people’s reactions and when they laughed, I thought they must be okay, so I decided to publish them,” he explained.

One of the cartoons featured in a new 'Getting into Art' book by contemporary artist John Midgley.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the cartoons featured in a new 'Getting into Art' book by contemporary artist John Midgley. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Entitled Getting into Art, the book also includes cartoons reflecting on the difficulties of choosing art as a career.

“You have to work very hard as an artist to get people to do the right thing, so, it can be frustrating when people do things like standing talking about their holidays with their backs to your work,” he said.

One of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the paintings featured in an exhibition by Mundesley-based artist John Midgley, which runs at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich, until September 29. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Mr Midgley, who was an arts advisor and sculpture tutor in London before moving to north Norfolk nearly 40 years ago, will be launching his book at a solo exhibition at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich.

Featuring 15 new paintings, the show explores the relationship between the artist and the observer and, like the book, it was inspired by watching people looking at artwork.

One of the cartoons featured in a new 'Getting into Art' book by contemporary artist John Midgley.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the cartoons featured in a new 'Getting into Art' book by contemporary artist John Midgley. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Now 83, Mr Midgley has no plans to give up painting and says his desire to experiment as an artist is stronger than ever.

“I may be in my eighties, but I had to work on other things for a long time, so when I finally got time to do exactly what I wanted, I decided to grasp it with both hands,” he said.

One of the cartoons featured in a new 'Getting into Art' book by contemporary artist John Midgley.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLOne of the cartoons featured in a new 'Getting into Art' book by contemporary artist John Midgley. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Getting into Art, an exhibition and book launch by John Midgley, runs at the Anteros Arts Foundation, 7-15 Fye Bridge Street, Norwich, NR3 1IJ from September 18-29. For more information, phone 01603 766129 or email enquiries@anteros.co.uk

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