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Reuben Colley

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Identified as ‘one to watch’ by his secondary school art teachers, well-on-his-way contemporary landscape artist, Reuben Colley was given all the elbow room he required (literally, as he was allowed to restructure the layout of his school art rooms apparently) before he repaid his teachers’ faith in him by grabbing never-been-witnessed-before grades at both GCSE and A-Level Art. With regards to the former, receiving an unprecedented 100% mark. Obviously something had to give, and in Colley’s case it was the other two (un-named) subjects that fell by the wayside at A-Level standard, but by that stage the aspiring artist was pretty much clear of what he wanted to do with his life and where he wanted to be.

Futuristically he was still a fair way short of achieving this aspiration, yet geographically he was destined (at least in the short term) to be on familiar territory, as he won a place on a B/TEC National Diploma course in Art and Design at Bournville College of Art in his native Birmingham. Again remaining close to home, Colley added to his string of useful art qualifications by following this up with a BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art, as awarded by the University of Wolverhampton in 1998, and then of course he had the contemporary art world at his feet. Well, not quite. First he had to sell some paintings and forge a name for himself, but that hardly took Colley an age as his (then) portfolio was showcased at (what turned out to be sell out) exhibitions (of his own arranging) in both Birmingham and Manchester.

However, for all this success and promise there remained the small matter of making ends meet in the meantime, irrespective of Colley sensing and knowing where his medium to long term future lay. This arrived in the form of a temporary career juxtaposition, as he obtained a role with a Birmingham art gallery as a framer. That art-procuring establishment happened to be the Halcyon Gallery, which is owned by Washington Green; Washington Green being the country’s most successful fine art publishers. Although Colley obviously found himself back of house in terms of the remit of his employment, he considered himself to be in precisely the place he wanted to be should he ever choose to fulfil his undoubted creative potential.

What’s more, in his capacity as a framer in the gallery’s warehouse, he was routinely exposed to a plethora of individual compositions and collections by some of the UK’s most important and successful contemporary artists. And if that environment can’t inspire a budding artist, then there’s definitely something amiss it’s fair to say.

So, acutely aware that if his work was ever to be ‘spotted’ as such by the powers that be, he had to make himself known to the industry movers and shakers. By design, rather than accident in all honesty. With this in mind, one day Colley just so happened to absently mindedly leave some of his own, personal artwork lying around which was clocked by a work colleague who in turn tipped off Mr Washington himself. In due course Glyn Washington asked to meet with the face behind the ‘uncovered’ art, thus commencing a great working relationship and commercially-savvy collaboration between the two mutually agreeable parties.

This all took place back in 1999 and since then – and in conjunction with Washington Green – Colley has witnessed countless of his original pieces of oil painted art reproduced as both limited edition prints and silkscreens, whilst also finding himself in the fortunate position of being able to showcase his compositions at the annual Spring and Autumn Fairs which take place at Birmingham’s NEC and on the back of which has resulted in Colley repeatedly selling out of individual pieces and collections. Colley’s first one-man show as a professional contemporary fine artist took place at his former place of work, The Halcyon Gallery in 2001, and featured a series of canvases which reflected the city of his birth’s many urban landscaped faces. That same year Colley received the prestigious 'Up and Coming Published Award’ from the Fine Art Trade Guild.

Recently granted an audience with Colley, the artist told various sources of how he spent his typical day, and how most of the time this entails dividing his time between painting in the studio and out and about collating his reference material. Although the latter tend to be less premeditated and far more spontaneous by his own admission, and usually occur when he feels light and geneal ambient conditions are conducive to the provision of favourable art. Colley travels across England, both to visit friends as well as combine this with fact finding visual missions, painting in the field and collecting reference material whilst on his mountain bike as it goes. In Colley’s opinion he insists on good reference points and disagrees that a natural feel and atmosphere can be created without having observed the then and there, literally, then and there. In the flesh.Trips further afield have included Kuredu in The Maldives and Barbados.

Elaborating more on his actual painting process and Colley offers the following insight; “I like to leave an initial painting to dry and then rework it with further washes picking out certain strokes”, before adding; “I find that this adds another depth and translucency to the paint, and helps to create the feeling of space and distance. Oil also gives the freedom to move the paint around as much as I like. I love the versatility of oil”. Colley historically paints directly from the tubes of oil paint as well as in thin washes, which he suggests infuses a balance and weight of colour that brings the whole picture together. Striving for this balance remains a constant thought and illustrative necessity according to the artist, and adds a natural appeal to the finished article. Colley; “It is this balance along with light that helps to create a peaceful, tranquil look”.