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Ray Atkins: The Reading Years

Sat 28 January – Sat 6 May 2017, Reading Museum, Reading

The exhibition will consist of 12 great paintings by Ray Atkins in Reading Museum’s Sir John Madejski Art Gallery. Some of these huge paintings have not been exhibited before.

An exhibition for art lovers and people who remember Reading in the early 1970s, the last time the town changed in a way that resembles today’s transformations. 

The Artist

Ray Atkins will be 80 in 2017 and still paints on a monumental scale, outside, in places that he loves, come rain or shine. He does not sketch before painting, instead he spends hours looking then paints what he sees, returning to overpaint as the scene changes, sometimes over a number of days. His astonishing, expressive work is often the result of his being present in the ugly parts of urban landscapes. In all of this he is an unusual artist.

His commitment to painting is also unusual. He has continued to paint and exhibit nationally since the 1960s, undistracted by calls that painting was dead in the 1970s or that conceptual art was the only way for a visual artist to communicate. Today he has a cult following among a new generation of young painters and his sort of painting is exciting the public - his ex-tutor and admirer Frank Auerbach had a solo exhibition at Tate Britain this year and the current Royal Academy Abstract Expressionist show is full of kindred spirits.

RayAtkinsThe Reading Years

Between 1968 and 1974 Atkins lived in Reading, teaching at the University of Reading. He produced an impressive body of work in response to the radical changes going on in the town centre. This was the period when the Inner Distribution Road swept through the town centre, the medieval area was demolished to make way for a shopping centre, offices and civic buildings, and on the outskirts the M4 was built. The scale of change is analogous to the exciting wave of regeneration of the town today.

Elaine Blake, Exhibitions & Partnerships Curator at Reading Museum said:"After a solo show in the prestigious Whitechapel Gallery in 1974, and inclusion in ‘British Art 74’ at the Hayward Gallery, Atkins was named as one of ‘The London School’. This group included figurative artists who are familiar names today, such as David Hockney. He was subsequently overlooked by the people who wrote the history books but his time has come to shine. "

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