#ContemporaryArtMonday: Richard Bawden

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Posted 21st May 2018

Richard Bawden

By the age of 11, Richard Bawden (b.1936) was sure he wanted to be an artist. He had drawn throughout his childhood, as the most natural thing in the world, and contributed to the artists' shows at Great Bardfield in 1954. At school, in his teens (where he met the potter Richard Batterham, who has remained a friend across the decades) he explored and imbued the work of earlier British artists: Samuel Palmer, Richard Dadd, Edward Lear, David Bomberg, the Charleston set – an eclectic selection, who displayed in their work the enormous variety of ways in which the world can be seen and depicted.

“I am delighted to have been invited to exhibit at the Watts Gallery with Chloë Cheese. I have wished to visit the gallery for quite a while; an exciting venue that combines art, architecture, sculpture and pottery, all of which I appreciate."

After two years' National Service, Richard Bawden was able to return to art school, enrolling on the printmaking course at the Royal College of Art in London. Among his tutors were artists Edward Ardizzone and Julian Trevelyan; student contemporaries included David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield. Some of these took off along new directions for British art – Pop art and abstraction were both in vogue – but Richard Bawden preferred to keep alight the torch of the British figurative tradition, continuing the line of the Nash brothers, Samuel Palmer, even back to John Constable.

Throughout years teaching part-time at Goldsmiths College in London, Walthamstow and Colchester Schools of Art, Richard Bawden continued to explore his own artistic language. The landscape and coast of East Anglia – and its distinctive light - have remained constant elements in his output. Aldeburgh, on the Suffolk coast, is a regular haunt and inspiration, with occasional forays further afield and abroad.

Richard's work frequently starts from the home in Hadleigh in Suffolk, where Richard and his wife Hattie have lived for over 30 years – a jug on a table, a room in the house, a view through a window, a corner of the garden – where he might focus on the detail of pattern in a rug, or the shape of a leaf. Hattie makes an occasional appearance (sometimes more than once in a picture) – more, she says, for a sense of scale, than as an accurate model. And while the surroundings might be familiar, Richard always succeeds in coming to them with a fresh eye. Now in his 83rd year – and with over 50 one-man shows to his credit - his curiosity about the world around him, and his pleasure in recording it, remains undimmed.

Alongside watercolours – which he likes to paint on site whenever possible – Richard Bawden is a keen and skilled print-maker. He favours linocut and etching, creating both monochrome and colour works. The crafts of etching and linocut are, in many ways, polar opposites: “Etching deals with atmosphere – linocut requires clear definition of form. In both I look for the evocation and poetry of place. I like both the austere and the richly decorative." He has also worked in a huge range of other media - book illustration, murals for restaurants, etched glass church windows and doors, a poster for London Transport, mosaics and furniture – a genuine artistic polymath.

Richard Bawden is an elected member of the Royal Watercolour Society and the New English Art Club; his work is frequently included in the Royal Academy summer exhibitions, and is in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate, Ashmolean Museum, The Queen's Collection and the Government Art Collection.

See Bawden's work on display in Reflections: The observant art of Richard Bawden and Chloë Cheese at Watts Contemporary Gallery until Sunday 10 June.