Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Eric Meadus

On Friday I attended a private view of the work of local painter Eric Meadus. The exhibition at The First Gallery coincides with the naming of a street here in Southampton, Eric Meadus Close.

Meadus died in 1970 at the young age of 39 but left behind a huge amount of work. He was self-taught and experimented with a range of styles. Much of his work focused on townscapes; he made many drawings of Southampton’s urban sprawl but it’s a drawing of Swaythling Railway Station which has been used on the commemorative plaque at Eric Meadus Close.

For me, the evening was more than just a chance to look at a large number of Meadus’s drawings and paintings. It so happens that the drawing of the railway station belongs to my cousin; he kindly allowed it to be reproduced for the plaque and loaned it, along with another drawing and two paintings, to the gallery for the show. He’s been an avid collector of Meadus’s work since before the artist died. I don’t get to see him and his wife that often so it was most enjoyable to be able to catch up in the civilised surroundings of an art gallery.

I’ll probably get shot down for this; my feeling is that Meadus’s work is a bit variable. I don’t think his figurative work is as strong as his townscapes, some of which are quite charming. His drawings of Southampton's urban townscapes are distinctive and spare, the lumpy, little houses arranged all higgledy-piggledy. The locations are recognisable to those familiar with local housing estates – I was particularly taken with a drawing made from the hill at the top of Athelstan Road, looking out over the rooftops, the clusters of houses bisected by the river winding through. Nicely composed.

Meadus worked full-time at the now vanished Pirelli General here in Southampton until he died. He would go out sketching in his lunch hour and considered that ‘a day without drawing is a waste’. Judging by the amount of work he produced during his artistic career, he was pretty committed to his art. It made me reflect on my own work and in particular drawing, something I don’t do enough of. I taught a drawing class for Southampton Art Society last evening and heard myself telling my students to practice - draw, draw, draw, anything and everything. It’s the basis of what artists do after all. So, it’s back to basics for me too. I’m off to the studio to practice what I teach.

Eric Meadus, Self-portrait
Collection of Southampton City Art Gallery

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your interesting viewpoint.  You're not going to get shot for expressing it.  I might shoot you for being yet ANOTHER arts person who sees Meadus' work as being "charming", as if that's all it is!  You're right there's charm there, but muscle, too, and I wonder how viewers high and low in the art-world, keep missing it.  What's extraordinary (one surprise of many in his output) is that he combined the two.
    I agree that his work is variable, and can't always understand that:  his figures, human and animal, when in the townscapes, ARE thin and unconvincing.  But you've undermined your claim that his figure-work is weaker with the repro immediately above this box I'm typing in:  you can't convince me THAT's a weak work!