Featured Artist

David Barrow

Our featured artist is David Barrow. We’re taking a look at his new series of work capturing the traditions of Wigan’s Walking Days and the Wiganese dialect.

David Barrow was born in 1959, in Parbold and spent his formative years there. Then moving to Wigan, he began painting seriously at the age of 19. Proud of his hometown, David’s work has developed in style over the years, yet remains consistently autobiographical and nostalgic. David has vividly captured Wigan and Parbold in a number of well-regarded oil paintings. They show the heritage of where he grew up and raised his own family. David’s paintings have been featured five times in the Summer exhibition at the Royal Academy, and he has also exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy of Fine Art.

David is probably best known for his Wigan Casino and Northern Soul paintings. As a teenager, he was a regular at Wigan Casino and in the 1990s. David has produced a series of paintings that depicted the Northern Soul Scene of the late 1970s. Likened to Dickens with London times and like Lowry’s mill scenes, he created a unique atmospheric vibe of then and now and was proclaimed by The Observer as the ‘Degas of Northern Soul’. These pictures have become extremely popular and his work is now widely collected around the world. Examples are now owned by: Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene, The University of Music USA and the Tamla Motown Museum in Detroit USA.

Freedom of Childhood

In recent years David has developed a very different style of working from his traditional oil paintings and atmospheric club scenes. For him art provides a therapy and he is a self-taught Fine Artist. In this recent series of paintings, sketches and prints, David brings to life the freedom of childhood through a naïve style. He encapsulates the spirit of children playing using pastel colours and repetitions of shapes and patterns. The repetition creates a unique and contemporary style that gives the series uniformity. It also creates a rhythm, breathing life into the paintings and narrating the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

The boys are always painted in grey shorts and white shirts, this is a homage to David’s childhood. He has fond memories of escaping from school at the end of the day, running straight to the park with his brothers. The girls are depicted as triangular shapes, emulating how a child would draw a girl themselves. All the girls are dressed in white, with the exception of one little girl who has a red poker-dot dress. She is featured throughout the series and is David’s daughter, Suzanna, when she was a little. Suzanna has also followed in David’s footsteps and shares his passion for art. She is currently Head of Art at a high school in Leeds. 

The texture of David’s paintings is very important to the aesthetic of his work. He creates authenticity in his painting through a series of deliberate mistakes. Layers are built up using jute hessian, then David cuts primitive drawings into the paint using a blade. Colours have been limited in this series, to unite and simplify the paintings. 

Walking Days

David’s latest series of paintings echo nostalgia, they are based around Walking Days in Wigan. The children are painted in a much more formal way, joining in the traditional church parades around the streets of Wigan. They are walking with banners to the beat of marching bands. Again, he creates the rhythm through carefully constructed repetition of shapes. 

David has collaborated with musician and dialect poet Lawrence Hoy, to develop the storyboards within these paintings. The bespoke Wigan dialect or ‘Wiganese’ (as it is known) narrates and compliments the paintings. David is in the process of compiling a book featuring the images from this series and the Wiganese text, this is to be published shortly. 

In addition to the Walking Day series, David is developing other works based around other familiar local places including: Wigan Baths, Wigan Pier and the market. He is continuing to develop a comprehensive body of work and is keen to continue the contemporary and naïve style of his latest work. 

Category: Featured Artist