LEN TABNER b. 1946


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Tabner was born on the South Bank of the River Tees in 1946. His father, a seaman all his life, worked on dredges on the Tees. The young Tabner grew up with the river, its industrialized banks, the estuary and the sea with its inshore fishing. He was therefore in tune with the sea and its moods from an early age. He went to Bath academy of Art, housed at Corsham Court in Wiltshire where the tutors included Howard Hodgkin, Adrian Heath and Martin Froy, and from there to Reading University. In 1974 he received the Northern Arts Production Award and in 1976 the Trident TV Fellowship in Fine Art. In 1982 a solo exhibition was held at Moira Kelly Fine Art; another at Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery, 1987, in which he showed paintings and drawings made underground in a potash mine near his home in East Cleveland.

Home is a stone cottage perched above the sea on the highest cliff in England, near Staithes on the North Yorkshire coast. There can be no better place than this for a painter of Tabner's leanings to record the forces of nature - wind, rain, summer heat, winter storm. His favored medium is watercolour laced with pastel. He will paint standing in an open boat, storm around him, paper pinned to a board, paint at the mercy of the elements. Not all of Tabner's work is concerned with the elemental forces of nature. He is fascinated by the forces below his feet, too, in the Potash mines where men work in danger, blackness and uncertainty, much as seamen do in the black loneliness of the ocean. And then there are the ironworks on Teesside with which he finds equal empathy. Here he spends nights painting in the heat and dust, impassioned by the glow of molten iron.

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