Like father, like daughter?

Leon Bunnewell & Ruth Bunnewell Summer exhibition at The Gallery Norfolk, Cromer 6th-27th September 2014

The Gallery Norfolk in Cromer is spotlighting two Norfolk artists for its second annual summer exhibition: Leon Bunnewell, whose solo show a year ago made him one of the gallery’s most sought-after painters, and his daughter Ruth Bunnewell, also a well-established name, but exhibiting at the gallery for the first time.


The artistic line in the Bunnewell family runs from Leon’s father, Leonard – a keen painter who in the 1960’s established an annual exhibition for amateur artists in Great Yarmouth – and both Leon and Ruth excel at landscapes and favour oils as their medium, but the distinctive personalities of father and daughter shine out in their work.


Leon, who is largely self-taught, creates highly-coloured canvases, painted on location in a single session, and often alive with motion, while Ruth, who trained at the Norwich School of Art and Design, takes a more reflective and structured approach, working in the studio from photographs; she captures a specific, remembered moment, combining stillness with dramatic use of strong lines and vibrant pigments.


This will be the first time they have exhibited together, and a fascinating feature of the show will be six works painted at the special request of The Gallery Norfolk’s owner Polly Miller. Here, Leon and Ruth have both painted the same three subjects, so visitors to the exhibition will be able to compare and contrast the work of the two artists. An example is a tree-lined road near Heydon: rising up to meet the viewer, Leon’s wide-angle view bristles with cool and acid greens, lavender and sky blue, while Ruth’s tighter, more graphic composition counterpoints expanses of lime green with deep, calm greys and arresting streaks of red in the broad Norfolk sky.


“Leon and Ruth are very close as father and daughter, but different in so many ways as painters” says Polly Miller. “Leon paints outdoors, as quickly as possible. Spontaneity is vital to him, and he doesn’t like to think too much about or rationalise what he is doing.  Ruth works in a much more measured style, but she too seeks a sense of unconscious spontaneity: as she paints, she will listen to an audio book or a play on Radio 4 so that her mind is occupied with something other than what her brush is doing ... There is an air of mystery in her work, a tantalising sense of a moment captured when something has just happened – or is maybe just about to happen. Leon’s work, by contrast, is very much of the moment.


“Each of them admires what the other one does. They obviously take an informed view, but they don’t believe in attempting to exert influence on each other, or to critique each other’s work. But I’m sure that visitors to the exhibition will find plenty to stimulate discussion.”


There will be more than 25 paintings on show – including one on view only by Leon’s pace-setting father Leonard – ranging in size from just 30cm square to epically scaled canvases over a metre in length; prices will start at £250, rising to £2000

oil on canvas