Evening Star APRIL 11, 2011 - by Andrew Clarke


Colin Moss, Bernard Reynolds, Maggi Hambling, Leonard Squirrel, Peggy Somerville, Stuart Somerville, Lawrence Self, Brian Whelan, John Chipperfield... Ipswich Art School Gallery has brought together a very impressive list of leading Suffolk artists, who all have works up for sale in a prestigious charity auction, being staged to raise funds to buy the former Art School for the town.

The auction, being run by Bonhams on Friday, represents an amazing opportunity not only to acquire a real bargain but also to own a piece of Suffolk's art history. As part of the on-going fund-raising campaign an art auction is being staged in conjunction with the current The Class Of... exhibition.

Curator Emma Roodhouse has assembled more than seventy works from former tutors and pupils which reflect the history and the talent nurtured by the celebrated art school during its years on the High Street site.

Emma said that surviving staff and former pupils had been extremely generous in donating works as had the estates of those who are now dead. "We have managed to bring together a real cross-section of work. It's all of an amazing quality and we have a huge variety of work so it will hopefully appeal to lots of different pockets.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to acquire some great art at a bargain price - there are no dealers fees, you pay what you bid and all the money goes to the art school fund."

She said that the Ipswich Art School had such an impact on the town and set so many great artists on their way to a glittering career that it not only deserves to be commemorated but should still provide inspiration for current and future generations.

"It should be a showcase - an inspiring shop window for great art both past and present. It is a valuable asset to the town."

She said that Suffolk had no formal art movement like the Norwich School; but Ipswich had always been an important centre for art and has always punched above its weight in terms of influential and the quality of student that it has sent out into the art world. Pupils from Ipswich regularly went onto take up places at Slade and The Royal Academy and some even returned as tutors.

Ipswich Art School, with its distinctive glass-roofed atrium, has always been regarded with affection by both students and tutors and this lies at the heart of the current bid to preserve the building for the town.

Former pupil Maggi Hambling is patron of the art school appeal and is in no doubt that the building should continue to inspire not only new artists but also provide a cultural oasis for the people of the town. She said: "My beginnings were at Ipswich Art School. Its restoration as a place of vision would call attention to the inherent richness of this place and its continuing inspiration for artists."

She is also giving a talk on May 6 about her, at times controversial career and the role that the Ipswich Art School played in providing her with the tools to help her realise her vision of the world. "As illustrious ex-student, this is an exciting opportunity to bring contemporary art to Ipswich."

Her championing of the gallery is echoed by Dennis Stevenson (Lord Stevenson of Coddenham) former Chairman of the Trustees of the Tate. He said: "We are hugely enthusiastic about the space, the scheme and the plans and have asked the Trustees of our charitable trust to make a substantial donation on this project. We will be very surprised if in ten to twenty years time this has not become an important feature on the arts scene not just in Ipswich but in the UK".

Emma said that the fund-raising has taken on a sense of urgency as Suffolk New College, the building's owners, have only loaned them its use until March 2012, after which the funds need to be available to buy it. The fund still has £600,000 to raise. "Ipswich Art School will show exhibitions of international importance and provide a unique stage for local artists to show their work. We opened the gallery with an exhibition drawn from the Saatchi collection and we hope to have a new exhibition from them later this year/early next year. Before then we are collaborating with DanceEast and Covent Garden to stage a major ballet photography exhibition celebrating the life and work of Sir Frederick Ashton.

"Also the gallery will be a major focus for the modern and contemporary collection that Ipswich already has, bringing work out of storage and helping inspire a new generation. There will be a first class learning and volunteering programme including opportunities for work placements and skills development. New studios will act as an incubator for creative start-up businesses and provide artists in residence space. Ipswich Art School will inspire, transform and educate as it has done in the past but help is needed now to raise funds to buy and restore this facility before it is lost forever as a public space."

This desire to preserve Ipswich arts heritage is why Emma has had such a strong response for her request for donations to the art auction. "People have been so generous. Maggi was going to give one painting and she ended up giving two, Pat Moss, Colin's widow, hunted out twelve paintings and drawings, including some lovely nudes. There's one of Ipswich docks where we have the finished oil painting and Colin's working drawing which is dotted with all his notes. It would be lovely if those two went to the same bidder. We also have two studies by Bernard Reynolds, two poems from Brian Eno, dating from 1967, which he sent to his tutor, we have a powerful painting depicting flooding at Drinkstone from James Self in addition to works from his father."

Other artists with works in the auction include Pippa Darbyshire, Ken Cuthbert, Michael Coulter, Arthur Oldham, Paul Bruce, Richard Scott, Tony Casement, John Green, Lindsay Harris, Alex Beale, Kate Reynolds and Ray Exworth.