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Artist exhibits 40 years of work from landscapes to political satire

PUBLISHED: 14:13 15 October 2010

Autumn Path, North Downs by Monty Parkin

Autumn Path, North Downs by Monty Parkin

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Historian and artist Monty Parkin mourns the loss of our countryside to suburban sprawl but still knows a handful unspoilt places to paint on his beloved North Downs

An unusual exhibition of a well-known artist’s work will chart the ephemeral beauty of Kent’s North Downs along with a couple of surprises.

Historian and artist Monty Parkin is due to display a selection of his lifetime’s work in An Artist on the North Downs at Hall Place, Bexley.

Mr Parkin, who will be familiar to members of historical societies for his frequent lectures, has been a professional artist for 40 years and has work exhibited at the Royal Academy and various London galleries.

“Hall Place is a very interesting building in itself, but they have made the Stables Gallery very attractive and large,” he said. “Its size will give me the unusual opportunity to display work from different stages all together.”

The majority of Parkin’s works are beautiful, whirling natural landscapes of the North Downs. Autumn Path provides a perfect example of his ability to capture the gently muted colours of a wintering woodland.

However, the traditional landscapes will be hung alongside stranger paintings like Changing Landscape painted in the mid-1970s.

“It is a bit odd,” said Mr Parkin. “The point of it is that you see these suburban houses in the background and the litter in the foreground and it is meant to reflect that the landscape is being built over everywhere.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to find entirely unspoilt areas where you can escape signs of our habitation. Even on the North Downs you can hear the M62 droning away.

“People worry about natural habitat disappearing for animal – I worry about it disappearing for the artist.”

The theme of Kentish farming life receding under the slow sprawl of suburbia is reminiscent of the more aggressive and impressionistic Steam by Turner – who himself painted the North Downs in his twenties whilst visiting William Wells in Knockholt, near Sevenoaks.

The idea was also behind Village Characters, Parkin’s series for his second London exhibition, what’s left of which will be at Hall Place.

“When I travelled around the North Downs to do my paintings, I knew all the local characters and I could see that all these things like the fishmongers and the butchers were disappearing,” said the 67-year-old.

“I worried they’d be a flop – only of interest to myself and people from the area. Of course they were among the first things to sell.”

One very popular series in Mr Parkin’s work that will be displayed was his political postcards. With the then Prime Minister sent up like Vera Lynn under the title Maggie the Market Forces Sweetheart, some were reproduced in national papers and bought by the National Portrait Gallery.

Hall Place will host an unusually large exhibition for an unusually varied artist.

An Artist on the North Downs opens at The Stables Gallery, Hall Place, Bexley, on Sunday, November 7. It runs until November 28, open 10am – 4.15pm. Contact Hall Place for further information on 01322 526 574.

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