Many thanks to Gayna for this excellent review.
Frances Conway-Seymour: ‘Awake-Wake’ – a retrospective © Gayna Rose Madder.
Well-known Liverpool- based artist Frances Conway-Seymour was told she was terminally ill Thankfully, she is still here for the moment; the only good news about this is that she has been prompted to mount a retrospective exhibition of part of the vast body of work she has produced over some decades (from 1954 to the present.)
As a war child who left school at 14, her lack of qualifications meant she was unable to obtain the grant need to attend art college, and worked in offices without ever giving up her main ambition.
Finally, at 22 she was admitted to the West England College of Art (now U.W.E.) on the strength of drawings she had produced at evening classes. In the painting school she met head of department George Sweet, with whom she became friends until his death in 1998. A strict teacher of Fine Art, he encouraged hard work.
Voted to become a ‘Royal West-of-England Academy’ member (R.W.A.) at 29, she was invited to show in each of the ‘Galeries Volombreuse’ in Biarritz and Paris, as well as exhibiting regularly locally.
Her next period found her moving from oil on canvas as a main medium to water and body colour, conté, pencil and collage, using this in her realist work of the 1950s – 1960s, which dealt with difficult political situations such as the civil rights movement, Sharpville, South Africa, the Warsaw ghetto, Mata Hari. These works, some of which are large, were mainly painted but used children’s drawings, press cuttings and even Polyfilla.
This artist has always been an innovator. Long before feminism became a daily term, she found a way to combine an outwardly traditional family role as a wife and mother with political radicalism, some major achievements as an artist, and the legacy of a huge and eclectic collection of her work. (The second part of Frances’ retrospective exhibition, comprising entirely different works, will be on show later this year at Lark Lane Atelier 1).
Her terminal illness is inoperable, but she is pleased to have completed the ‘Elizabeth Willow’ series just before being diagnosed last Spring, as these now comprise some of her favourite pieces of her own work, which also include ‘Mata Hari’, Birth of Venus’, and ‘Feast of Dionysius or Hen Party’. The extensive exhibition continues at the Lark Lane Atelier (upstairs), and another section opens at Gallery 2 (address below) on 24th July.
Lark Lane Atelier 1: 33 Lark Lane, Liverpool L17 8UW, 0151 727 5355
Gallery 2: 73 St Marys Road Garston L19 2NL. 07938 190127 (view by appointment only)