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"There is a cloud that looks like a Grand Piano”
We human beings are the animals that make pictures. We can’t help it. It’s what we do. Our pictures can show us things that aren’t there, yet, or never were, and give other people looking over our shoulders while we daub a view into our “minds”. Pictures are a means of communication because we are also the animals that infer. We look for meaning. “Show me a mark and I’ll read it.” Written language was evolved from picture language. Metaphor of metaphor. But the process is a philosophical palindrome; conscious experience as picture to significant mark to letter/word and back again via perceived letter/word to consequent picture image and conscious experience. As a conveyor of truth this line of buckets has plenty of opportunity to discard and corrupt its contents. However, the system is so complex and beguiling that adept rhetorical manipulation can relieve it of any need for truthful content to be convincing. The shiny buckets in their charming line are more than enough to satisfy curiosity. Thus anything can be “true” if the syntax of “truth’s” expression is consistent. Peter Abelard, the wrangler, could argue that black was white beyond contradiction using his exorable logic, Now, of course, the bright gleam of consistent logic has become somewhat fuzzy, but its post 1931 make-over still charms.
I paint therefore I am
Ron was surprised when I told him that he could clean his brushes with turps. His painting technique was very much his own as he really was self-taught. Its directness and simplicity was exactly all he needed and because of his alla prima style the resulting pictures are materially very sound. A cardboard box of paint tubes and a cluster of brushes served him well. Nothing fancy. No mahogany or brass for Ron. He had an immediacy of being with his paint. I always fancied that he was a little like Van Gogh in being a compulsive painter, but unlike Van Gogh he didn’t need the external motif to stimulate and direct his creativity. The picture was somewhere is his mind, to be found. The paint, the mark, the movement of colours across the panel were Ron’s motif and if an image emerged worthy of his painting process it was left as a finished picture. If unworthy, it was removed. Scraped off with a palette knife. Gone…
He painted after work. At first after his duties on board the Naval Sloop and later when he returned home from the Path Lab at night. So much of his painting was done by tungsten light while the world slept that he told me he had to be careful with yellow because of having painted so long by artificial light. Having done his duty - he had left school at 15 and joined the navy; he had studied in the evenings to become qualified; he had worked over a microscope at the hospital - he painted. His own reality was in the process of the painting. From paint to mark, from mark to image. The process, the self, the paint, the mark, and if worthy, the image.
Ron used to come to my classes at Bury college and I would watch him at work. He knew a lot about pictures and had a very educated taste. We talked a lot. Later on when he really couldn’t see very well I used to visit him at home. He was a tough little Geordie who had literally seen the world.
Ronald Ronaldson ,my father, was born in 1919 in Newcastle upon Tyne. He won a scholarship to the Junior Technical school but it was only when he joined the Royal Navy in the 1940s he took up watercolour and oil painting. It was in Cape Town that his first set of paints was purchased.
Painting turned out to be his passion but not at the expense of family and working life. He was employed at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds for all of his working life which meant his painting was done “ after hours or at weekends”. There was never a family holiday where the sketchbook was not present and in use. Indeed some of the family days out would encompass day trips to London and visits to galleries in Cork and Albemarle Street along with the more traditional galleries . Always keen to have conversations with the gallery owners , artists and students met in the Royal Academy, his knowledge became wide and varied often surprising the most knowledgeable experts. He was always researching and listening and always willing to help and mentor all from grandchildren to other artists.
Whilst working he initially joined the Bury Art Club and became a regular exhibitor in their annual shows and it was here his work began to be admired and respected outside of Bury St Edmunds. Over the years he began to exhibit more frequently in and around East Anglia at Gainsborough House ,the Phoenix gallery, the Hunter Gallery, Langham fine art and Chappel galleries.
It was only when he retired his work really took off in terms of breadth and diversity of subject and technique. Family visits to the home would always mean viewing new pictures
in different styles and subject matters and it was always a treat to be able to see them adorn all the walls of his and all close family homes . Indeed his pictures are now in
all family homes from Newcastle to Basle.
Equally I know that his pictures are admired by many outside of the family and he certainly had an admiring public. Having spent many hours with my father in galleries, at his own and other exhibitions, I also know he was something of an “artists artist” always happy to converse with like minds. I hope his pictures continue to give as much pleasure to everyone as they have to the family.