Continuing with our feature ‘Meet the Artist’ our new star is John Pugh who has recently taken on the task of our ‘Exhibition Manager’
When it comes to meeting the artists who are about to feature in our regular ‘Meet the Artist’ piece I very quickly become aware of the fact that I am in the presence of extraordinary talent and yet none of those that I have interviewed so far would admit to that; such was the case when I met with John Pugh at the ‘Self Help Group’ this week. John showed me some of his extremely detailed work much of which was done with a palette knife. Now to the uneducated (in artistic terms) the fact that anybody could create a picture as good as the one John was showing me using a knife seemed unbelievable.
By discipline John is, or was, a languages teacher; at secondary school he allowed himself to be persuaded by his careers’ teacher that art was ‘a dead end’ choice and so embarked on a pursuit of languages becoming a specialist in French and German. However he never lost his quest for artistic expression and after a short break from artistic pursuits, forced upon him by the loss of his wife to cancer, he dipped his toe into sculpture and ceramics culminating in a Visual Arts degree. He then joined the charity Voluntary Service Overseas and immersed himself in teaching Primary and Secondary teachers in Rwanda where he spent three years. Even in Rwanda the pull of art lingered in his conscious and he searched for a Rwandan pottery to express himself; the only pottery was a day trip away from his residence but by chance he discovered ‘Imigongo’ or the art of making pictures using cow dung. The dung was used to mix with other ingredients to make a fibrous clay with which ridges are formed on smooth surfaces then the many coats of paint are added.
Returning to the UK in 2014 and moving to York led John down another artistic avenue when he was invited by Phil Reynolds (an artist who ran a demonstration for us in December 2019) to give talks on ‘Imigongo’ paintings. Yet by his admission John keeps returning to either acrylics or pastels although he does enjoy ink and wash from time to time. He attends Sue Clayton’s York Learning Classes and is actively seeking to develop a ‘looser’ style.
After all of his art experience John admits that he is still waiting to feel the ‘wow’ factor when he completes a picture; all I can say is that if he hasn’t experienced the ‘wow’ factor yet he is not looking at the right picture, I saw several ‘wows’ in his portfolio!
I am also very aware that Rwanda’s loss could be viewed as York Art Society’s gain as John has now stepped up to the task of being the Exhibition Secretary for our society and is facing his debut with the 209th exhibition in May this year which will lead onto our centenary exhibition in 2021. Could this be John’s ‘wow’ factor? Be sure of one thing; if John’s experience as a teacher and an artist is allowed to shine it will be.