Exhibit: Childhood celebration will open as part of festival

Audrey with Uncle Tommy and Winnie  (oil painting) by Ian Burke.
Audrey with Uncle Tommy and Winnie (oil painting) by Ian Burke.

Artist Ian Burke has created a new exhibition of highly personal paintings and woodblock prints, which will open as part of Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage on September 9 and 10.

Watch with Mother is a celebration of Ian’s childhood on Teesside in the 1960s.

Uncle Harry's Love Triangle  (woodblock print), by Ian Burke.

Uncle Harry's Love Triangle (woodblock print), by Ian Burke.

He grew up in Redcar and the artworks are populated with his relatives, many of them local characters, viewed through the all seeing, but not entirely understanding, eyes of a child.

Real human figures are represented alongside the fictional characters that loomed large in Ian’s infancy: Muffin the Mule, Andy Pandy and Ray Harryhausen’s skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts among them.

Real, fictitious or imaginary, the figures crowd into the child’s-eye view of the world on an equal and non- discriminatory footing.

Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a real from a fictional character.

Is that Uncle Tommy, who was “good with horses” and frequently dressed up as a cowboy? Or is it the DC comic’s Hopalong Cassidy?

The prevalence of puppet figures is note-worthy.

Puppets featured highly in children’s television in Britain in the 1950s and 60s and became the stuff of Ian’s dreams and nightmares.

“Aqua Marina (from Sting-Ray) was my first love,” he reminisces. Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men, on the other hand were too surreal, too strange and disturbing,” he recalls. “It terrified me to think of all that going on in the garden!”

Although it is a distinctly personal record, there is much here we can all identify with: family relationships, memory, the joys and comforts but also the confusions and terrors of childhood.

“These are real images from the archive of my mind. They are presented as I still see them – strange, scary, misunderstood and truly surreal.

“The fact is we cannot recall with real honesty, but collage together our own mental landscape and history with characters who probably did not exist as we choose to remember them. ”

Watch with Mother will be on show throughout Staithes Festival on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September at The Sunday School, Wesleyan Chapel, Staithes.

Ian will also be tutoring a workshop during Staithes Festival: Drawing Portraits from Archive Photography, on Saturday September 9 at 2pm and Sunday 10 at 11am.

Contact Staithes Gallery on 01947 841840, or email al@staithesgallery.co.uk for more information or to book a place on the workshop.