Monday, 27 September 2021

BBC painting challenge victor is coming to town

THE winner of BBC One’s The Big Painting Challenge is bringing his work to Henley as part of

THE winner of BBC One’s The Big Painting Challenge is bringing his work to Henley as part of a three-man group exhibition opening next week at the Old Fire Station Gallery in Market Place.

Paul Bell was crowned the winner of the show — billed as the search for Britain’s best amateur artist — at the end of March.

Having attracted entries from 6,000 artists to start with, The Big Painting Challenge had Britain’s art lovers on the edge of their seats as the contestants travelled the country testing their skills in styles such as portraiture, landscape, seascape and still life.

Judges on the show included artists Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie, who described Paul’s artworks as “powerfully composed” and the artist himself as “enormously capable and talented”.

As the winner of the series, Paul’s prize was to see two of his paintings go on display in Tate Britain.

Coming at the age of 51, the judges’ verdict was a stunning validation of the talents that saw him train at the Glasgow School of Art, just down the road from where he grew up.

Currently a stay-at-home dad to his four-year-old daughter, Paul has previously worked in interior design and as an architectural illustrator.

Before winning The Big Painting Challenge he told the BBC he dreamed of having his own studio space and more time to paint.

Speaking this week, he said that following his win things had been “pretty manic, with lots of media requests, magazine features and appearances”.

Following that initial rush, however, he is pleased that things have calmed down enough to allow him to continue to develop his painting style.

Paul says he loves oils, although he admits he can find them messy and slow, and is very happy working with acrylics.

He told the Standard: “I have honed what I was already doing in terms of use of colour and I would say the style has become a little more expressionist — but also the scale of my work has increased considerably.

“Being part of the series was helpful and winning it has presented me with opportunities and exposure that previously I never had.”

Now Paul has teamed up with two fellow artists — the painter Frances Ackland-Snow and veteran sculptor Stanley Dove — to bring their work to Henley.

Their joint exhibition, joshingly entitled Fran, Stan & the Telly Man, opens next Thursday (July 9) at the Old Fire Station Gallery, which has been hosting Simon Hearden’s Berlin Walls show for the past week.

Asked what had brought the trio to Henley, Paul said: “I don’t think any of us have direct links with the town, although Frances has exhibited there before and it was her idea to use the venue. I live in Beaconsfield, so not too far away.”

He added: “I have been part of group exhibitions in the past, but this is the first time I’ve gone out of Beaconsfield, with the exception of a group exhibition I did with the other artists from The Big Painting Challenge.”

At 40 the youngest of the three artists, Frances Ackland-Snow’s work — described as “Dark Romanticism” — is forged from her memories of landscapes and places that have touched her.

She says the process of putting paint on the canvas, combined with playing music that has stirred her soul, has made the act of painting a meditative and healing experience for her.

Born in 1931, renowned sculptor Stanley Dove’s work has been shown widely throughout the UK and Europe, including at the Royal Academy of Arts’ summer exhibition.

A practitioner of the lost wax technique, Stanley sculpts mainly in solid bronze and is well known for his love of the hare — some of which he has rendered over five feet tall.

n Simon Hearnden’s

Berlin Walls

exhibition continues at the Old Fire Station Gallery until Sunday (July 5), with evening opening planned for the remaining days of the Henley Royal Regatta. Mainly featuring monotype originals and prints by neglected Berlin artist Walter Lindner (1936-2007), the show was made possible after Simon sold his house in Roke to fund his purchase of Lindner’s oeuvre.

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