10:57am Friday 4th January 2013
EVERY picture tells a story in a new glossy calendar of paintings of iconic Middlesbrough scenes and in the case of a number of them, it is a detective story.
The calendar is the first produced by the Friends of mima, the town’s flagship gallery, and features paintings held in the gallery’s collection of local art.
But they can only be displayed now thanks to hours of painstaking research, the piecing together of clues...
and the odd stroke of luck.
Each image needed the approval of the copyright holder before it could be included and that required the Friends’ ‘bloodhounds’ to track them down.
Tish Bloom, who led the process of preparing the calendar, said: “These paintings will appeal to anyone with a Middlesbrough connection wherever they live now even if that is on the other side of the planet.
“They are attractive, accessible and reflective of Middlesbrough as a community.”
Tish’s ‘gumshoes’ case was to solve the mystery of the whereabouts of Anthony Lowe who painted the Transporter Bridge picture featured on the calendar cover and for the month of December Tish, who lives in North Yorkshire and is herself an artist in this region, started with Google which came up with a few promising-sounding contacts in the Midlands and Sheffield. But those trails ran cold.
She said: “I came across an Anthony Lowe practising in the tiny village of Zurchau, 40 miles south of Leipzig in Germany, but knowing that our artist was definitely English I didn’t at first contact him.
“Eventually, following Sherlock Holmes’ dictum, ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’ I emailed him.
He was indeed our artist.
“He had worked in the north-east for a number of years after graduating from the Royal Academy, but had taken up a British Council scholarship in 1988 and moved to Leipzig in what was then East Germany where he still lives.
“We were also able to help him trace a work he produced in 1991 which is now in Hartlepool Council’s collection and provide him with an image of the work for his own records.”
Another of the Friends’ sleuths was Tim White who before he retired nearly four years ago was Director of Regeneration for Middlesbrough Borough Council, where he oversaw the process of building and running mima.
His mission was to “nail” the copyright holder for the works of Ken Cozens who was born in Guisborough in 1920 and died in 2000. Ken was Fine Arts Officer at Middlesbrough Art Gallery for 27 years and instrumental in assembling its collection of twentieth century art.
Two of his works are featured in the calendar (May and November).
Tim, who lives near Cockfield in County Durham, said: “After a journey through some of the more obscure and little-travelled byways of Google, I was about to give up hope when I stumbled upon a reference to a deleted Wikipedia article about Cozens’ art and the story of his life as a painter.
“The article had been deleted by Wikipedia because they felt it might be an advert in disguise, by someone who stood to gain from drumming-up interest in his paintings.
“Although I couldn’t find the article itself, the Wikipedia deletion page did have the name of the article’s author, Jim Watson. I thought ‘Watson – elementary’.
“Another search threw up several people of that name, but eventually I tracked down the right Jim, who turned out to be an author of children’s books who lives now in Tunbridge Wells.
“I discovered Jim used to live on Teesside where he was a Middlesbrough Evening Gazette journalist.
He had seen Ken’s work at a local exhibition and really liked it, and has been trying to get more recognition for him ever since.
“Jim was able to give me the name and last known address of a nephew of Ken’s in Cheshire, Paul Moody, who turned out to be the copyright holder. Permission was readily given and Paul’s family are delighted at the interest being shown.”
Tish said: “This calendar wasn’t simply a case of choosing 12 pictures – it required hours of ferreting by many people to bring this project to fruition. Sherlock Holmes would have been proud.”
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