Norfolk mum, 94, has art exhibition with son

Born in Gorleston in 1939, artist Bruer Tidman has always been close to his mum – and never more so than when, one dark night in 1949, mother and son had to flee the family home.

After they left his father, Bruer always knew that he could depend absolutely on a single parent who would, if needs be, sacrifice everything for him.

So, what a pleasure then, for him now to arrange for mother Charlotte Wych to be his partner in a joint exhibition staged both in Norwich and Yarmouth and to celebrate her 94th birthday.

It's a treat for us, too. Bruer Tidman has long been one of East Anglia's most noteworthy artists, with an expressionist vigour and a strong sense of colour – with one painting providing a powerful cover for What Lies Beneath, the most recent album by former Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower.

But now it is clear that there is another natural artistic talent in the family.

What is even more pleasing is that Charlotte Wych took up painting only after turning 80 – and having never taken a formal lesson in her long life. Now she spends up to six hours a day depicting vibrant images of flowers in her Gorleston kitchen.

'I think her paintings are fabulous and charming and they show an intuitive knowledge of art,' says Bruer.

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Charlotte adds: 'I love painting as it keeps me busy. I choose flowers as I have never been taught to paint the outdoors.'

Not that she has been taught to paint flowers either. Making art is, after all, a supreme act of confidence. And the fun of it – and the demands of it – have filled most of her life.

Bruer was forever painting as a child. A visiting GP who saw his teenage drawings urged him to enrol at the former Yarmouth School of Art.

He duly did so – with Charlotte working ever harder to support him.

She was also called on to act as a model when returning from work as a bakery show card maker. 'I would pose for a long time and if I asked my son for a cup of tea he would tell me to shut up and keep still,' she remembers with a broad smile.

Now their joint show of pictures can be seen in Norwich Theatre Royal and Great Yarmouth Central Library. Both exhibitions share the title Still Waiting for Godot.

In titling the displays after Samuel Beckett's 'powerfully insightful drama about the human condition', Bruer Tidman wanted to convey 'a certain resemblance between the characters in the play and the relationship between me and my mother'.

Bruer says: 'Just as I was writing a catalogue note my mother rang to tell me, 'I've just come out of the shower, and had to ring you to say I had something to tell you, but I've forgotten what it was. I'll ring you later to tell you what I've forgotten.'

'Also, the reference to the play is that I simply loved the title and the plot in the knowledge that we are all Waiting for Godot. At the beginning of the play one of the characters, Estragon, says to Vladimir: 'Nothing to be done.' Thus the theme of the play is set.

'The fruits of our labour displayed in these exhibitions say that, like all of us, we do endeavour to create something in and of our lives – no matter how banal and futile it may seem at times.'

And he adds: 'My mother enjoys painting her flowers and does so with an intensity that belies her age. I am of a more melancholic nature – I only wish I could convey in paint my little scenario of life with the same clarity, power and precision of Beckett's writing.

'So these works try to describe our thoughts and feelings while Still Waiting for Godot.'

Paintings by Bruer Tidman and Charlotte Wych can be seen – and bought – at Great Yarmouth Central Library until October 30 and in the Adnam's Bar of Norwich Theatre Royal, courtesy of Targetfollow Arts, until December 7.

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