16/11/23 Makes

Retrospective Exhibition remembering Stockport artist Joan Bradley

Retrospective Exhibition remembering Stockport artist Joan Bradley

In praise of her life, the works of much loved and respected Stockport artist Joan Bradley are being featured in an exclusive exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery as Stockport continues to celebrate its tenure as Greater Manchester town of Culture.  

‘Joan of Art’, who was chairman of Vernon Mill Artists from 2010 until her untimely death in May 2023, was born in Beswick, grew up chalking pictures onto the flagstones outside her house and followed her passion for art throughout her illustrious career.

Inspired by the Impressionist painters, Constable’s oil sketches and Edward Seago’s work, Joan’s work evolved through her love of the city, landscape, people and colour. The tactile quality of the painted surface and a personal language of mark-making to express the vagaries of light, movement and form were important to her.

After graduating with a BA Honours Degree in Fine Art at Manchester Polytechnic in 1980, Joan travelled to Hong Kong with her husband John who had accepted a job in the Far East. During her three years there, in what was then a British colony, she captured the essence of its bustling life, painting the busy streets, markets and its people. Joan’s work formed part of a Group exhibition in the Queen’s Road Art Gallery with 3 other women artists before her two solo shows in the Wanchai Arts Centre.

From 1985 until 2007, Joan shared her skills and techniques with lucky students, either in her role as a part-time lecturer at Manchester Adult Education Services, through private tutorials or during her time as Hon. Secretary and Chair of the Stockport Art Guild. Her students often became her friends and worked with her for a long time. At times they visited exhibitions to see the work of others along with creating their own work.

More recently Joan held an art class every Tuesday in her studio in Vernon Mill, Stockport until she became ill in late 2022. Her class continued to work in her studio even after her death in May 2023, a fitting tribute to the skilful guidance she gave to them.

Throughout their 51 year-long marriage, John encouraged her love of painting. Throughout her career, Joan’s work was recognised by both her peers and by distinguished artists catching the expert eye of curators of galleries and professional bodies.

In 1992, Joan was announced as the North West winner of the Laing landscape painting competition and in 2000 was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a highpoint in her career and the highest of accolades.

In 2017 she returned to memories of her walks alongside the River Mersey walks when she painted a group of canvases titled “Mersey Moods” for the “Thread that binds us” exhibition tracing the River Mersey from its confluence in Stockport to the sea in Liverpool.

Joan died on 15th May 2023 but her work lives on. She is much missed by many – her fellow artists, all those who benefited from her brilliance and shared expertise. Many who admire her work may not have been lucky enough to know her personally but her legacy lives on in exhibitions and galleries where visitors can enjoy viewing her paintings are and appreciate her great talent.

Close friend and fellow artist Pauline Wood said:

“It was always a pleasure going to my studio in Vernon Mill. I went to Joan’s studio when I arrived each day. She made me welcome, gave me coffee and we talked about art work, exhibitions, events of the day and a multitude of other stories. Many other artists did the same so Joan was the person to ask about all things related to our artist community. She was the lynchpin around which everything else revolved.
We are already missing her! “
Jan Cartain, a close friend and colleague added:  
 “After Joan died, I was privileged to be one of the first people to sort out her work in her studio. Looking again through her sketchbooks and paintings made me appreciate how passionate she was about her work and working practices. This quiet time spent in her studio was a great comfort and a reminder of how important she was to the people who knew her.”

A retrospective exhibition of the work of Joan Bradley BA hons FRSA opens at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery from 23rd November 2023 to 28th January 2024
Joan never had a solo exhibition of work at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery although pieces of her work were exhibited there many times. Her friends Jan Cartain and Pauline Wood have gathered together paintings and sketchbooks to create a retrospective exhibition of her work, in collaboration with Bob and Angie, Joan’s brother and sister.

Read more about Joan’s life in the exhibition’s catalogue entry

Images courtesy of Joan Bradley’s Bio 

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