One of many least endearing characteristics of our get older is certainly youth worship. I could understand that advertisers might need to target a big and gullible viewers abruptly and unaccountably blessed with disposable cash flow (or should that come to be credit rating?), but to attribute wisdom or originality to youth is normally a rash action indeed. The focus paid to little artists in new decades is continuing to grow more and more disproportionate, for no justification in addition to the follow-my-leader mass media circus which will keep their antics before an extremely bored and bewildered (if certainly not downright cynical) consumer. On the other hand, the invariably bigger achievements of mature performers are ignored because they’re certainly not considered ‘newsworthy’. Consequently may be the serious and satisfying disparaged, and the immature and meretricious lauded to the telegraph poles, if not quite the rooftops.
Utterly professional, Roland Collins prides himself on turning his hand to many techniques. He has worked successfully as a developer and illustrator (he designed the sleeve for the 1st British LP record in 1945), a printmaker (he made a superb suite of lithographs to illustrate Noel Carrington’s book Colour and Pattern in the Home in 1954), a muralist (Greek restaurants a speciality), a photographer and a writer (he wrote the text for a children’s reserve, The Flying Poodle , in 1951, and illustrated another poodle reserve, the novel Fifi and Antoine by Charlotte Haldane in 1956), but most importantly he is a painter.
This is doubly disturbing because it is uncommon for a young artist to have got much to say, or the ability to state it interestingly. Encounter counts for far more, both when it comes to content material and the acquired abilities with which to connect it, as anyone with direct knowledge of the art globe will easily admit. There happen to be ratings of mid-career performers out now there, working aside with very little encouragement or incentive, some of whom were once the Bright Young Items of their era. Fashion takes up and then it discards, and the blight of post-war British fine art provides been the obsessive search for another youthful star, as the richness and diversity of our creative accomplishment across all age ranges goes generally unrecognised.
However, next to the fascination for youth lies an ingrained open public fun of the Grand Out of date Gentleman. A reverence for years is altogether extra understandable: speaking privately, the friendship of more aged artists has educated me an immeasurable volume about both art work and lifestyle, and I am deeply grateful for this. John Craxton, who has got simply just died at age 87, was a supreme exemplory case of an artist packed with knowledge and encounter, capable of imparting his enthusiasms in the many wonderfully vivid and life-enhancing discussion. I tremendously mourn his reduction. Craxton’s art is well known and justly celebrated, but amazingly right now there are artists of his era still at work whose careers remain a closely guarded secret to all but the specialist. One such is definitely Roland Collins.
Roland Collins was born in 1918 in Kensal Surge, before moving with his parents to a block of mansion flats in Maida Vale at the age of 11. His wonderful love there is the canal, and he made various drawings of it, aware from extremely in early stages that he wished to end up being an artist. (At the tender time of eight he earned a competition organised by the Night News to color in a poster.) At Kilburn Grammar Institution, where he helped to paint the scenery for the annual Shakespeare play, he was encouraged by the art master, Robert Whitmore, and consequently went to study for two years at St Martin’s School of Art. Aged 18, education was at a finish and he must locate job, which he duly performed, his first work getting studio assistant for an marketing agency referred to as the London Press Exchange. He ready layouts and models for advertising, and worked freelance as a lettering artist. (Collins was responsible for the letterheading for London University’s first notepaper.)
Meanwhile, he had begun what was to be the main work of his life: a long series of gouache paintings, mainly of buildings, which link directly to the Romantic topographic tradition so strong in English art. Collins particularly admired the task of three of his elderly contemporaries, every one of them born in 1903–Edward Bawden, John Piper and Eric Ravilious. They placed a higher standard to check out, but Collins features been no mere imitator of their stylistic idiosyncrasies. He’s his own person, his work directed at an assortment of bold delineations and great detailing, atmospheric washes of color alternating with crisp pattern-making. He includes a particular sense for all horse-drawn conveyances (for twenty years he rode in Hyde Recreation area), and specifically carts, for fishing boats for sale and ocean defences, canals, the Thames and for Dieppe.
Although he’s a separate Londoner, for several years a denizen of Fitzrovia, who endured a five-season Cornish exile before settling in southern London, his second house (spiritually) can be in France. ‘You could claim I first visited Dieppe in the first 1950s searching for Sickert’, admits Collins. He and his wife Connie come back there frequently, though nowadays he finds the city rather as well smartened up, with significantly fewer potential subjects for him to paint. He has nevertheless published a book of his photographs, Dieppe–le visage d’une ville de province (1995), one of the earliest of which is usually of a farrier, taken in the 1950s.
He has generated a distinguished body system of job which papers a fast-vanishing community. As he says, ‘So a lot of the factors I was enthusiastic about and attracted by no more existed following the battle.’ He clarifies how he’s drawn to days gone by: ‘I believe it displays my seek out rural origins. My grandfather on my father’s side originated from Cottenham, north of Cambridge, and was referred to as a farmer. They generated an extremely well-noted blue cheese and lived in Cheese House on the green.’ If his work has a nostalgic air, it is partly because his style was firmly founded in a realistic idiom through the 1930s, 40s and 50s. He has never been tempted by abstraction, preferring usually in which to stay close touch using what he views. His behavior is to venture out walking, along with his canvas painting tote over his shoulder. ‘Finding a topic that meets me–that’s the difficult tad.’ If he succeeds, he’ll relax to color it en plein weather . A pause for lunch time in a local pub and back again to work. He’ll get cheerful if he completes a painting in two periods, but in some cases he’ll wander all day in search of a motif and not find one. But the pleasure he derives from looking at buildings never pales.
In 1937 he demonstrated a painting for the first time in the Royal Academy’s Summer time Exhibition , and offers continued to exhibit regularly since, though an innate modesty offers held him from the limelight. As a consequence, his delightful and unaffected paintings are less well known than they might be, and a talent which has been continuously in use for more than 70 years has gone largely uncelebrated. It is high time for a Roland Collins retrospective: an exhibition that could show the breadth and depth of his pursuits, and present to an unsuspecting people a very distinctive, articulate and remarkably enjoyable artistic tone of voice.
Roland Collins will exhibit with Michael Parkin ARTWORK at the Gets results on Paper Good at the Research Museum from 3 to 7 February 2010, or could be contacted on 020 7735 0298 .