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Posted: 12/04/17

Tutor’s winning painting merges past and present

Mansfield-based artist and art tutor at West Nottinghamshire College, Julian Bray, is celebrating a national prize win at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours’ annual exhibition.

Julian Bray with his winning watercolour, East Terrace, Welbeck

His painting, East Terrace, Welbeck, has earned him the James Fletcher-Watson award for best pure watercolour, with a cash prize, and is now being exhibited in The Mall Galleries in London until Saturday 22 April.

Julian, who has worked as an art tutor at the college for almost 30 years, first painted the winning watercolour last year, forming part of an exhibition at The Harley Gallery, Welbeck.

His paintings made up the ‘Flora Welbeck’ collection, and were inspired by the architecture of the Welbeck Estate and the floral imagery found in a rare century-old collection of stereoscopic autochromes at the estate.

Autochrome images are an early way of producing colour photographs, using potato starch. Using a stereoscope box, one could see these images through two eyepieces lending a three-dimensional appearance to the photographs.

Julian said: “This painting remained from my Harley Gallery exhibition so I thought I’d enter It into the Royal Institute’s annual competition. It was a real honour to discover I’d won the James Fletcher-Watson prize.

“Over 1,500 entries are submitted to the RI and only 80 were selected so I’m very pleased and was even happier to hear that James’ family commented that their father would have appreciated the handling of the medium in my work.”

Julian’s painting reflects the romance of the Edwardian photographs and contrasts crisp lines of Welbeck’s architecture with the organic forms of plant structures to create a theatrical multiple-viewpoint image.

Julian said: “As I was researching the estate for my work’s inspiration with the historian, a few chickens wandered into view which was quite amusing, so they even appear in the painting. The painting depicts contemporary structures as well as the type of flora that used to grow there at the time when the autochrome photographs were taken.”

Combining his teaching of the BTEC Level 3 Foundation Art and Design Diploma and commercial painting, Julian will be exhibiting his work at two Derbyshire exhibitions over the coming months.

Firstly an exhibition at Gallery Top in Rowsley, from 14 June, which runs concurrently with the Royal Horticultural Society’s exhibition at Chatsworth.

Then from 6-22 June, Julian has been asked once again by the Harley Gallery to produce a series of paintings for entry into the annual Harley Gallery open exhibition for which he is preparing a set of architectural studies based on the buildings of the Welbeck Estate.