Published on April 14th, 2014 | by Alastair Gilmour


The pub painter – Paint your palette blue and grey

Works of art hanging in pubs are a real draw, writes Alastair Gilmour

Some pubs have local scenes framed around their walls – nostalgia-tinged images from a golden age that was not as gilded and carefree as we like to think it was. Others display off-the-shelf nick-nackery that bears little relationship to the place in question and serves only to collect dust.

The most appropriate pictures though are the site-specific ones – those created for that pub or that room alone. They can still be appreciated when hung out of context but it’s the connection of a collection to a particular person or place that makes them unique.

So, when you sit down to enjoy your pint in The Black Horse in Low Fell, Gateshead, you soon realise you’re in the midst of a small art gallery with North East-inspired works by local artist Jim Harker looking awfully like something out of a classic artworks catalogue.

Jim is a freelance illustrator doing most of his work for Washington-based card and craft company La Pashe. He has worked in London and Amsterdam as well as the North East and was for a while resident artist in a Durham business, drawing and painting landscapes, buildings, customers’ pets and cars “and anything they wanted me to” from its shop window.

But it was following a few drinks in The Black Horse in Low Fell, Gateshead, that he and co-owner Chris Robinson got talking about using the pub walls as an art gallery, something different to prompt conversation.

“We came up with the scenario that if famous painters had come to Newcastle what would they have painted,” says Jim. “For instance, Claude Monet lived in London for a while and painted Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge when he was staying at The Savoy. I thought if he came here he would maybe stay at Malmaison on the Quayside so I painted a picture of the Tyne Bridge from there in his style. I also imagined Vincent Van Gogh would have painted his sunflowers displayed in a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale.”

The pub even uses a Picasso-esque image of a rearing black horse for its signage – a huge marine ply image that’s difficult to miss.

“Picasso often used horses in bullfighting pictures representing the Spanish people as the bull being attacked by forces of Fascism,” says Jim, who reveals an astonishing knowledge of art history as well as displaying an enviable artistic ability.

“I don’t just copy famous paintings, I study them for a while then go off and do my own version from what I’ve learned. I did most of the Black Horse ones a few years ago but people still comment on them so I started making prints to sell
(www.art2gogo.co.uk). Customers often ask me to do a version for them, like the sunflowers I did for someone in a Jack Daniels bottle because that’s what she drank.

“I’ve done quite a few but I certainly couldn’t make a living out of it.”

Jim has painted The Black Horse as centerpiece to Van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night imagery along with Durham Cathedral set in the same background – as well as St James’ Park. Penshaw Monument has also come under his cultured eye, along with Picasso’s Toon Army, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in the style of Salvadore Dali and Geordie Scream “by” Edvard Munch.

To celebrate Jim Harker’s work, The Black Horse is to host a Meet The Artist evening where he’ll explain the background to his work and will also have prints available to buy.

*Meet The Artist Jim Harker at The Black Horse, Kells Lane, Low Fell, Gateshead NE9 5HY

Follow The Black Horse on Twitter @BlackHorse_GHD

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Alastair Gilmour

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