David Inshaw grew up in Biggin Hill and studied first at Beckenham School of Art (1959-63) and then the Royal Academy Schools (1963-6), where his tutors were William Scott and Derek Greaves. Peter Greenham, as Keeper in charge of the Schools, was someone he admired because he encouraged the students to hunt out their own identity and not just fit into particular modes of expression. Inshaw’s pictures of the 1960s were initially text based Pop pieces, or incorporated photographic elements into the painting. In 1966 Inshaw took a teaching position in Bristol, and it was here he began to evolve the deep emotional engagement with the West of England that has endured ever since.
David Inshaw has been painting for a long time. Indeed, his landscapes have become part of the landscape of contemporary British art. There is much to celebrate, but perhaps the most exciting thing is that this new major exhibition is not a retrospective. It shows an artist not prepared to rest on his laurels but eager to add to an already impressive body of work and to face new artistic challenges. This is not to suggest a radical departure from what has gone before. The new paintings are immediately recognisable. Inshaw’s landscape remains the Wessex of burial mounds, ironage hill forts, tracks and pathways threading their way through contours gouged by the last retreating ice age. It would be possible for such a vast prehistoric backdrop to diminish the human drama set against it, but Inshaw’s figures always seem at home in their setting, however teasing, poignant or puzzling their presence may be. Women wait, welcome and depart. Men and women set up camp and enact the Big Top circus routines of sexual engagement around a little scout tent. Inshaw magically manages to provide intimacy without voyeurism, and as all successful art does, surprises us into unexpected recognitions.
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