David Manley: artist

David Manley may be about to reach his official pensionable age but there’s no way that he is about to rest on his laurels.

He is described as one of the most significant artists in the East Midlands and it cannot be denied that he has left his mark on the region with both his own work and the step up he has been able to give other artists in a variety of arts-based roles over the decades.

As a result he can often be seen at exhibitions and festivals and will be at Ashbourne Festival’s Summer Art Exhibition this month as one of the invited artists.

The charismatic painter, pictured, is always on the look out for a new project to get his teeth into and admits he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he wasn’t painting, curating or lecturing about art.

“I have endless projects on the go and I am always trying something a bit different. I don’t think my work can be categorised in any particular stylistic way,” he said.

David, whose home and studio is in a converted chapel in Kegworth, mainly paints and draws, yet his work also encompasses digital photography and sculpture.

“I have an endless curiosity about what’s going on around me and my work changes a lot because of that. I get bored very easily and could not do the same thing over and over again. I am way too inquisitive about what I am doing and like to see where it takes me.”

As by way of explanation he offers me a couple of quotes from other artists which have struck a chord with him and by which he lives –  ‘If you want recognition as an artist you must not be recognisable’ and ‘Try to make the painting as if you have never made one before’.

David is originally from the south and completed his foundation course in Exeter, followed by other courses in Falmouth, Cheltenham and Birmingham.

Like many an artist he eventually had to get a job to pay the bills and after a stint doing various odd jobs including working in a betting shop he took on responsibility for running the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and then he landed what could be described as a dream job for any artist – visual arts officer for East Midlands Arts in the 1980s.

“In those days I was more or less left to do as I pleased and spent my time visiting artists in their studios, sorting out grants and commissioning public art.

“Most of the artists in this area who are over 50 I met at some stage during my time in that job,” he said with a grin.

His vast contacts list will now also include the next generation as during the Noughties he became the Assistant Dean and then Dean of Art and Design at Derby University.

“When the job came up I was unsure as to whether to go for it but I am glad I did. I still teach part time in Lincoln but I have given up full time work to concentrate more on my own art. Whenever I got a new job there was a fallow period with my own work – it had to take a bit of a back seat.

“Now though I am showing quite a lot and in the last few years I have, among many other things, curated shows at Harrington Mills Studios in Long Eaton and Déda in Derby.”

David was one of the people who helped bring the Kevin Coyne retrospective to the city in 2014 and last year  he was behind Geometry: Wonky or Otherwise.

This year one of his many projects is entitled Playground of the Midlands, an extension to a challenge he set himself  five years ago during which he created a series of paintings chronicling all of the places mentioned in the 1977 guide book to the district of North West Leicestershire.

This time he has chosen the Charnwood district and will produce a series of paintings.

He is not sure where or when it will be exhibited, but you can follow his progress on his blog davidmanley.wordpress.com or website http://www.davidmanley.co.uk.

For more information about Ashbourne Festival turn to page 31 and go to http://www.ashbournefestival.org

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