Brush with the Orient

Richard Parr North Norfolk artist Jeremy Barlow’s pictures are much sought after, with his work in private and public collections around the world. His major summer exhibition at The Ringstead Gallery at Burnham Market will have a Japanese flavour, as Richard Parr discovers.

Richard Parr

Prolific artist Jeremy Barlow is widely known for his pictures which portray the English, French and Italian countryside in such a delightfully evocative way.

However, his 2008 annual show at The Ringstead Gallery, where he has exhibited each summer for the past three decades, will offer the viewer something new. For the collection of 80 pictures featuring his trademark sun-drenched streets in France, the exterior of French restaurants and dramatic Norfolk village skies, will also include two of his paintings from a visit to Japan.

Only two of his far eastern pictures will be on show - he is still working on the new collection for a major exhibition in 18 months' time.

It marks quite a departure for Barlow, 62, who until now has confined his overseas painting expeditions to this country and Europe.

But the chance to go to Japan and paint in 12 cities was one that he couldn't resist and viewers who attend his show at The Ringstead Gallery in its relatively new location in Burnham Market, will no doubt be curious and excited to see how he has applied his distinctive style to Japanese architecture and culture.

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Barlow explained that he was invited to travel to Japan by the Japanese Cultural Foundation in London and commissioned to paint pictures in the cities. He spent a hectic month travelling through the cities including Tokyo, Hiroshima and Akita. It was his first venture painting Japanese scenes but he had previous experience of Japanese culture when he was based in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“We lived in Dusseldorf about 30 years ago and the city at that time was the control centre of Japanese industry in Europe and all the big Japanese companies had their offices. There were Japanese hotels and restaurants and we just thought it was wonderful and we started to mix with the people and we liked the culture and when this opportunity came up we jumped at it,” he said.

He explained that he was painting in the side streets of Tokyo where there were little Saki bars and Sushi houses some of which date back several hundred years. “In Kyoto and Takyato there were beautiful shrines and temples and the Emperor's gardens in around Tokyo were absolutely fantastic,” he said.

The visit to Japan has whetted his appetite for further Eastern painting expeditions and next year he is going to Vietnam to record the country's architecture and culture.

Barlow always looks forward to his Ringstead Gallery show not least because of the friendly rapport he has built up with gallery owners Don and Margaret Greer and their 27-year-old son, Nick, who has now joined them in running the business.

In its heyday at the picturesque village of Ringstead, it seemed that everyone interested in art would head for the charming white fronted gallery that Don and Margaret established and ran for so many years. It was only the prospect of retirement in a new home on the Isle of Skye that led them to sell their gallery.

But Don found it hard severing his links with Norfolk and it wasn't long before he had identified new premises in Burnham Market and set about converting a former holiday cottage into a charming gallery just off the Green.

He now divides his time between Scotland and Norfolk, returning to help out Nick who looks after the day-to-day running of the premises which have now been established in their new location for 12 months. The new gallery opened last summer with the Barlow exhibition.

Time was when such was the interest in Barlow's pictures, that people would queue up outside from about four or five in the morning to ensure that they got the first look at the new collection. It wasn't long after the 10am opening time that red dots would start to appear on the pictures which seemed to go like hot cakes.

Things are different in the current credit crunch climate as Barlow himself knows only too well although, according to Nick Greer, there has already been interest from people who have been sent the impressive exhibition colour catalogues.

“We have already had some interest from prospective buyers for Barlow's work so I anticipate that although there may not be the queues there once was, it is likely to be pretty hectic on Saturday's opening day.

“Barlow himself expects to be at the Gallery for most of the day because he enjoys having a chance to chat to people who have bought his pictures in the past.

“It is always good to be able to talk to people who like my work and indeed who have my pictures in their private collections,” said Barlow, who is based at Saxlingham, near Holt, where he now has his own gallery, run by his wife, Jan.

He added: “Some people have been coming to see my Ringstead Gallery summer exhibitions every year since the first show and their continued interest and support for my work is wonderful.”

Once again the new collection of oils are stunning in the way they capture the interaction between light and shade. Prices range from £785 to £11,500.

All the familiar much-loved Barlow scenes are featured in the collection, the light reflected on a Venetian canal, boats on the shore at the East End quay at Wells, a sun-drenched square in an Italian town and a antiques shop front in Rouen, France.

t The Jeremy Barlow exhibition opens on Saturday, August 9, with a private view from 10am until 8pm and then until August 19.