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Why Mundesley artist John Midgley enjoys painting the same scene again and again

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:12 24 April 2015

Contemporary artist John Midgley in his Mundesley studio. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Contemporary artist John Midgley in his Mundesley studio. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

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For many artists, painting the same scene over and over again might seem like a monotonous – even pointless – exercise.

One of the half a dozen paintings John Midgley has created of the same scene - a back road leading through the north Norfolk village of Southrepps. Picture: suppliedOne of the half a dozen paintings John Midgley has created of the same scene - a back road leading through the north Norfolk village of Southrepps. Picture: supplied

But, according to John Midgley of Mundesley, who has spent two years doing just that, it leads to heightened observation skills, a deeper understanding of the natural world, and an increased sense of self-awareness.

Since 2013, Mr Midgley, whose work is on show at The Fairhurst Gallery, Norwich until May 7, has been capturing on canvas the same couple of seemingly unremarkable north Norfolk scenes – a backroad through the village of Southrepps and a small bridge at Wiveton.

“What appealed to me about road through Southrepps was that, in an area that is reputedly flat, there was a terrific dip and you can see the structure of the land with the road winding through it,” he explained.

Despite painting the same Southrepps scene more than half-a-dozen times, and the Wiveton bridge 10 times, he claims was never tempted to move on to something more “interesting” and says his purpose was not to capture the changing light or seasons.

One of the half a dozen paintings John Midgley has created of the same scene - a back road leading through the north Norfolk village of Southrepps. Picture: suppliedOne of the half a dozen paintings John Midgley has created of the same scene - a back road leading through the north Norfolk village of Southrepps. Picture: supplied

“I’m not recording the climate,” he said. “It is something deeper than that; you end up relying on your instinct and I think that, by looking so closely at something, you see everything more sharply and more of yourself goes into a painting.”

Mr Midgley, who trained at Harrogate School of Art, was an arts advisor for the London boroughs of Haringey and Brent before establishing a studio complex housing 24 artists in North London.

After a stint working as a sculpture tutor, he went on the carve a career as one of the country’s leading trades union banner painters, before giving up work to become a full-time abstract artist,

His work has since been exhibited in Norfolk, Suffolk and London, gaining an enthusiastic following among art-lovers for its distinctive style.

One of the half a dozen paintings John Midgley has created of the same scene - a back road leading through the north Norfolk village of Southrepps. Picture: suppliedOne of the half a dozen paintings John Midgley has created of the same scene - a back road leading through the north Norfolk village of Southrepps. Picture: supplied

Entitled Backroads, his latest series of paintings is an attempt to move away from Norfolk’s “big skies, sunsets, wherries and windmills”, so often featured in paintings of the county.

“I think these are things that already exist in nature, or have become part of the landscape over centuries, and they can’t be improved upon,” he said.

“So, if artists want to look for structure and meaning in life, they can study the ordinary.”

Mr Midgley added that the heightened observation skills gained by painting the same scene again and again had an added bonus – as an antidote to insomnia.

Part of a trio of John Midgley paintings explaining his motivation in painting the same scene again and again. Picture: suppliedPart of a trio of John Midgley paintings explaining his motivation in painting the same scene again and again. Picture: supplied

“I will often lay in bed and, to help me get to sleep, I can visualise the journey to Norwich, from every sign, tree and bridge, to every café and shop,” he said.

■ Backroads, an exhibition of paintings by John Midgley, runs at The Fairhurst Gallery, Websdales Court, off Bedford Street, NR2 1AR, until May 7. Opening times are Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm and Saturday 10am-2pm. For more information, phone 01603 614214 or visit www.johnmidgley.co.uk


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