BURY Art Society has opened a new gallery which showcases many works of local Manchester artists and Bury Art Society President David Swithenbank.

Ash Howson spoke with Gina Warburton about the opening.

Photography: Stephen Walton- stephenwaltonfineart.com

David Swithenbank, aged 91, is the current and longest serving president of the Bury Art Society, until January 27th, and a new exhibition has opened at Bury Art Museum in honour of the artistry he has created throughout his life.

Succeeding L.S Lowry, Swithenbank has travelled extensively, visiting India and many countries in Europe; having particular affinity with Norway where he returned many times.

With thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Bury Art Museum was able to capture Swithenbank’s fascinating memories as a various collaboration of his works are being presented alongside the annual Bury Art Society exhibition.

Visitor Assistant Gina Warburton said: “We decided to celebrate Bury Art Society and also celebrate the artist David Swithenbank because he is a prolific artist in the area.

“He has been a part of Bury Art Society since 1950 and he is now 91

“He’s taught in loads of schools and been involved in loads of community aspects.”

The gallery is retrospective of Swithenbank’s life’s work, inspired by his travels throughout Europe and India. Depicting landscapes, wildlife and culture, Swithenbank’s work illustrates the world around him during his life and travels.

Photography: Stephen Walton- stephenwaltonfineart.com

“It’s quite a documentation, or illustration of his life, but also on the things that were going on at the time, and what the architecture was like at the time,” Warburton told Quays News. “So it’s set in context with, historically, what was happening as well, like the war that was writhing in India.”

During the Second World War, India was controlled by the United Kingdom and by 1945 it was the largest all-volunteer force in history.

“In 1945 David Swithenbank got drafted into India in the war and then, obviously, the war finished. So he was just in India with not much to do, so he got up to go out and paint,” Warburton said. “So he depicted the world around him.”

Shortly after, Swithenbank attended university and travelled around Europe, making his own ‘Grand Tour’, ending up in Norway.

“He absolutely loved Norway, he wanted to become a Norwegian,” Warburton told Quays News. “But he learnt to speak Norwegian, and he lived on this farm, and he just farmed and painted, doing commissions as well whilst he was out there.”

Swithenbank’s time on the farm fuelled his adoration for nature and birds, which is seen throughout a number of his paintings.

Photography: Stephen Walton- stephenwaltonfineart.com

One piece of work appeared to be too big to be exhibited at Bury Arty Museum, however it is on public display at The Elizabethan Suite at Bury Town Hall.

“We had this really big painting that we wanted to show but didn’t fit in our space,” she said. “It is like a focus point of the room.”

Swithenbank’s home features more of his paintings, which will be digitally exhibited in the museum, as well as an eventual release online.

“His house is full of work. He’s got hundreds of works, and we managed to digitalise all of them,” she said. “But when the archive is made, which is going to be about March, people will be able to just come in the archive and look at all of his paintings.”

As well as his work being honoured in a museum, Swithenbank’s artistic legacy still continues to influence and inspire the community. This materialised in a recent vote which resulted in a statue of him being commissioned and installed on the Kirklees Trail.

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