Creator & Creature of Art
This summer, a new Charity Pop-Up Gallery with Garden celebrates art whilst raising awareness and funds for nature conservation and improved mental health.
From July to September 2019, the Feeling & Matter exhibition will support WWF-UK and Oakleaf and display the diverse creative output of the English painter, sculptor, picture restorer, writer, husband and father, John Rich.
His creative talent was obvious at an early age and upon seeing his art, a teacher told him he should definitely “take it up”. The young John interpreted the word ‘up’ as an instruction not simply to pursue a career in art, but a far greater responsibility – to raise the form to another level. From that point onward, he resolved to take art ‘Up’.
John Rich studied at the Epsom School of Art and then the Slade School of Art. He won a scholarship from the Guildford School of Art to study in Paris, at the Academie Grande Chaumiere and Academie Julien, whilst Elizabeth became his muse, a model and their chief money-earner.
A contemporary of Peter Blake and David Hockney – exhibiting alongside them – John Rich would go on to have critically successful one-man shows at the Rowan and Grabowski galleries in London.
Reviews in the Guardian, New Statesman, Observer and others followed. The Times described him as “an inventive and determined artist with a line of his own.” He became an artist of some standing, exhibiting with the Young Contemporaries and the London Group.
Despite this auspicious start to his career, John Rich ‘retired’ from painting and did his best to focus on a growing family. He resolved to take art up again after this more immediate demand on his time. He taught himself picture restoration and achieved a reputation for excellence in this field – supporting his family whilst falling into obscurity from the contemporary art world.
Years later, burdened by the responsibility to take art ‘Up’, he energetically established a large studio in Surrey. He quit restoration and started to paint again and to write.
“An artist is both creator and creature of art, a product and producer of its history, the past to which the artist responds and the future for which he or she is responsible.”
His self-imposed exile whilst affected by bi-polar, encouraged a growing feeling of disillusionment about the contemporary art industry. Their focus was firmly on youth and spectacle. At this time, awards such as the Turner Prize, were not open to those aged over 50 and the tumultuous rise of Damien Hirst and the Young British Artists, dominated the headlines.
“In the Sixties the history of art was taught… as if it began with the Impressionists, in the Eighties as if it began with Andy Warhol and at the turn of the century… as if it began with Damien Hirst.”
Informed by aesthetic judgement and expertise gained through intense study of artistic movements and trends, the works of John Rich did not appear to fit the fashion of the day and, not for the first time, he questioned his place in the new art world order.
“The concepts of ‘quality’, ‘better than’ or ‘of a higher or finer order’ – indeed any judgement – is seized upon as evidence of the heresy of elitism, class privilege and snobbery. The punishment for which is exile.”
Eventually he would give up any attempt at recognition and with renewed focus he went on to produce a significant body of work, rapidly developing through various styles.
If we are open to them, there are occasional, fleeting moments of insight, comfort or revelatory engagement which strike us, often by surprise, for example in encounters with the natural world. Through his art, John Rich‘s work serves both as a record and as a source of these experiences.
The original works and studies by the artist can be seen at a new website dedicated to his art and the Feeling & Matter exhibition, which is a step toward the artist regaining the recognition that eluded him for many years.
“The intention of the artist is to invest matter with meaning.”
Feeling & Matter is a retrospective celebration of the work of John Rich taking place at his home and studio. The garden, designed by his wife, complements the gallery and reflects the harmonious life-long relationship between the artist and his muse.
Works on show include those kindly on loan from the private collection of Lord & Lady Levy.
Saturdays and Sundays, 12noon to 6pm.
Other times by appointment – please email firstname.lastname@example.org