Vibrant work of a Leamington artist

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THE new year will see the work of a widely-ranging Leamington artist displayed in the town’s Pump Room gallery alongside a new piece of public art.

Landscape to Sculpture: John Bridgeman (1916 - 2004) opens at the town centre gallery on January 25 and the free exhibition will run for three months.

The showcase will be the first retrospective display of Bridgeman’s diverse practice and will include sculptures, drawings, maquettes and paintings.

Although he trained as a landscape painter, Bridgeman, who lived in Leamington for more than 40 years, became fascinated by sculpture and in the 1940s, while studying at the Royal College of Art, his work was admired by the already well established sculptor Henry Moore.

Moore invited Bridgeman to become his studio assistant, but this offer was rejected as Bridgeman was determined to pursue an independent career.

During the Second World War, while working in the Civil Service’s Heavy Rescue Service, he started work on his Torture Wall, an installation made up of 20 cast bronze figures.

The exhibition will include a construction of this work, which he continued to work on throughout his career, but which has never before been publicly displayed.

Alongside, viewers will be able to look through a substantial catalogue and a facsimile reproduction of an unpublished series of illustrated verses produced by Bridgeman with his wife, the writer and poet Irene Dancyger - who worked for many years as editor of the Woman’s Page at the Leamington Courier.

Bridgeman provided a series of vibrant illustrations for Dancyger’s verses about a series of imaginary creatures.

In another first for the gallery, the exhibition will be complemented by a public artwork - Design For Pleasure, a new piece by Birmingham-based artists Simon and Tom Bloor, which has been created specially for the Pump Room Gardens. The pair took inspiration from Bridgeman’s large scale Play Sculptures, which were installed in playgrounds during the 1960s.

The Bloors’ new sculpture that offers the generation who first enjoyed Bridgeman’s sculptures a place to stop, sit and talk with each other, their children and their grandchildren.

The exhibition has been curated by the gallery’s senior curatorial officer Dr Chloe Johnson, who has been working closely with Bridgeman’s daughter, Dr Jane Bridgeman and her husband, Professor Michael A Michael.

Dr Bridgeman said: “Many of my father’s friends and colleagues will be delighted to see this exhibition of his work in his local town.

“I am also very pleased that a facsimile of my parents’ book of verses and drawings for children and adults will be printed for the first time.”

She and Prof Michael will introduce the exhibition on Friday January 25 from 1pm to 2pm as part of the gallery’s programme of free Friday Focus talks.

To find out more, call 742700 or go online.