DON’T MISS THIS EX­HI­BI­TION

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Peo­ple have just a few more weeks to visit The Stan­ley Spencer Gallery’s lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion Par­adise Re­gained. JO-ANNE ROWNEY finds out why it is a must-see

THOSE who have fought in any con­flict will know how

it can be to come back to the hum­drum of ev­ery­day life. For Cookham artist Sir Stan­ley Spencer the av­enue to find­ing some sem­blance of nor­mal­ity was through his art.

One of the great­est pain­ters of the 20th cen­tury, Spencer was deeply trou­bled on his re­turn to his beloved home vil­lage of Cookham fol­low­ing the First World War.

Yet he went on in the im­me­di­ate post-war years to paint many of his finest works.

No­tably, all of Spencer’s paint­ings re­lat­ing to wartime ex­pe­ri­ences re­flect pos­i­tive thoughts.

Now the Stan­ley Spencer Gallery is look­ing to help those who have had trau­matic com­bat ex­pe­ri­ences, to show them the ben­e­fit art can have.

The gallery’s lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion con­tin­ues the theme of his re­cov­ery from his ex­pe­ri­ence of the First World War.

Shez Courte­nay-Smith, from the gallery, said: “Spencer did not ex­plore any dis­tress­ing mem­o­ries of battle in his works, but fo­cused on the stead­fast non-fight­ing work un­der­taken both by sol­diers and civil­ians.

“He also painted moun­tain­ous scenes and the work of mules, with which he grew familiar in his warser­vice years.

“He cel­e­brated in paint, too, the peace­ful val­ues of Cookham and his heart-felt joy at his re­turn.”

Bucks, or rather Cookham, played a cen­tral role in his works.

“Spencer had an af­fec­tion for Cookham that comes across in his work,” Shez added. “It makes an ap­pear­ance in his works, and is a clear in­flu­ence.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion has some of his most mon­u­men­tal works on loan from the Tate show­ing this in­flu­ence, such as The Bridge 1920, with its fan-like ar­range­ments of iden­ti­cally clothed young men gaz­ing from Cookham Bridge, and the mys­ti­cal Christ Car­ry­ing the Cross, set in front of Spencer’s home in Cookham High Street.

“We’d love peo­ple to come and see the ex­hi­bi­tion be­fore it fin­ishes in a few weeks time,” said Shez. “Orig­i­nally it was only go­ing to run un­til Novem­ber but we ex­tended the run to the end of March as it’s been popular.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion has been fea­tured in the Wall Stree In­ter­na­tional Mag­a­zine, and vis­i­tors have come from far and wide, in­clud­ing the USA, Canada, Australia and South Amer­ica.

The ArtFund de­scribed the gallery as one of the five most un­miss­able small gal­leries in the UK and it was also awarded a cov­eted Miche­line Green Star this year.

“There is also a self-por­trait, also on loan from the Tate,” said Shez. “Any­one who en­joys Spencer’s work or wants to see the im­pact of the war on a young man, or the benefits of art should come.”

There are just a few weeks left of the Par­adise Re­gained ex­hi­bi­tion.

The gallery is also invit­ing peo­ple to share their thoughts or ex­pe­ri­ences on the role art can play in heal­ing wartime ex­pe­ri­ences.

Shez said: “The thoughts will be com­piled into a com­pen­dium, so we would love to hear from ev­ery­one.”

Email shez@stan­leyspencer.org.uk.

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