PAINTER . PRINTMAKER . DESIGNER

DAVID PLATTS

A LIFE IN ART

David Platts is an English artist – a celebrated painter, printmaker and designer – a gifted draughtsman and colourist who is widely known for his abstract painting

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity, serenity devoid of troubling or disturbing subject matter…  like a comforting influence, a mental balm.

Henri Matisse

To fully appreciate painting, one should approach it with an open mind, uncluttered by any preconceptions or wordy explanations. Approach it with an open heart, so that its magic and metaphysical nature can sing freely to the receptive soul.

David Platts

A LIFE IN ART 1940-today

David Carlyle Platts was born in Calcutta, India in 1940

1940-1947

Because of the influence of events in his life and of necessity, the route taken by David Platts to become a professional artist was not a straightforward nor a conventional one.

The seeds and foundation for his life within the Visual Arts were established in India – the land where he was born. He remembers vividly the vibrant colour in his parents’ rambling garden – his mother’s creation – the cosmos, the large clumps of yellow, orange and red cana lillies and sunflowers – the latter visited regularly by green parrots with flashes of red in their feathers, flying in from the jungle which bordered the garden. Other birds and butterflies with their remarkable colours, markings and patterns left a lasting impression.

He recalls his mother’s small plantations of bananas, guava, papaya, pineapples, oranges, lemons, mangoes, the colours of their luscious fruit and their individual leaf forms, contrasting in shape and scale; the delicate varieties of palms in the jungle.

Animals who visited the sanctuary of the garden to drink at the large pond, fascinated him. He remembers one early morning when a young fawn stood motionless in the middle of the extensive lawn – what a thrill – the film ‘Bambi’ had recently been released. There was the constant chatter of the monkeys high up in the tall mango trees and the circling of the vultures high above, together with the brightly coloured kites being flown even higher.

There was also the annual summer visits with his father and mother to their little house near Darjeeling, with the mountains of the Himalayas standing as a background to the foot-hills covered with neat green mounds of the tea plantations.

From an early age many of these experiences were recorded in a juvenile way on his slate with a box of coloured chalks – nothing of these childhood efforts remain today of course, for they would be quickly rubbed out to make way for the next drawing.

One thing that David delighted in was to encourage fire-flies into his room during the early evenings and then on numerous occasions he would fall asleep watching their constant twinkling, as though there were stars in his room – in the mornings the light through the shuttered windows would attract them and away they would fly. The constant lightning and the eerie light, as bright as day, during the monsoons and the torrential rain are vividly remembered.

Visits to Calcutta, (renamed Kolkata) were fascinating – the sights and smells of the brilliantly coloured spices in the markets and the flashes of colour and patterns of the sarees worn by the Indian women: so much to experience – an abundant feast for the senses.

1947-1957

His family left India and returned to their native Yorkshire in England in 1947 when David was almost seven years old.

His education had begun at a prep school in India run by the East Indian Railway Company – (his father was works foreman, in charge of the manufacture and maintenance of railway rolling-stock – his grandfather had been works manager since 1920).

Upon their return to England the family now entered a very uncertain time. David and his parents moved often from one temporary home to another – this affected his education – his father became ill and eventually had a complete mental break-down. In time his parents settled in the outskirts of Sheffield and David attended the local junior school. He passed the 11+ examination and with the help and recommendation of two of his teachers who recognised his abilities, he was awarded a scholarship to Sheffield School of Art – this was turned down by his parents because, at the time, they saw no future regarding work prospects in the world of art. He was eventually enrolled at Rowlinson Secondary Technical School where he remained until ‘O’levels. He excelled with his art; he was a prize winner in the BBC Children’s Art Competition in 1955 and for three consecutive years 1955, 56 and 57 he was awarded the Chantry Award for Drawing and for Painting. Sir Francis Chantry (1781 – 1841), the leading portrait sculptor in Regency Britain was born in the parish of Norton, Sheffield, North Derbyshire border. The Chantry Award was an art competition open to young people who were either born in Norton, living there or attending a school within the parish – Rowlinson School was located in Norton. At sixteen years of age he sat the Joint Matriculation Board ‘O’ level examinations and gained the highest marks of all candidates in Art that year and as a result he was awarded the Art prize by the school.

David understood the difficult situations at home at this time, especially the financial constraints affecting his parents, therefore he never considered any possibilities of continuing his education on to ‘A’ level, let alone entertaining the thought of trying for a place at an Art College. Thus the only way forward was to get a job and try to make a contribution at home in a practical way.

1957-1965

David left school and secured a position as a junior artist in the commercial art/graphic design studios of a display and exhibition design company in Sheffield. The different clients and the character of the work gave him the strong technical grounding and creative variety that any visual artist would wish for at this stage of their development, (for he had his sights fixed still on returning to full-time education at an Art College and, hopefully, eventually make his own way as an artist). To this end David immediately enrolled for evening classes in life drawing and general painting at Sheffield College of Art. These classes continued until he left for London in 1962.

In 1960 he moved to an advertising agency in Sheffield to their studio/creative department. In 1962 he secured the position as studio manager with an advertising agency in London. He continued attending evening classes now at the Sir John Cass School of Art and all day Saturdays – later, in addition, he attended two days per week, the remaining three days working for the ad. agency, (all this in preparation for giving up work and going to Art College).

1965-1970

In 1965 David was ready to leave London – he gave up his job and headed for York and enrolled at the School of Art on  a full-time course. At this point he was classified as a mature independent student, he was awarded a full, major award and thus he was able to attend college without putting his parents under any financial burden.

The School of Art had a strong foundation and ceramics department there – York was the right choice because where others had thought it a handicap, York formed the opinion that his years in the commercial art world were an advantage and they arranged a course for him with an eye on admission to the Royal College of Art.

In 1967 David was awarded a Scholarship to the R.C.A. and the school of Ceramics and Glass –  shortly after entry he was seconded to the School of Printed Textiles. He experimented with screen printing techniques and pattern, producing a suite of fifteen printed wall hangings using machine parts and turbines as motifs. Also there was a collection of printed fashion fabrics which he produced in collaboration with R.C.A fashion students and featured in the Fashion Department Show 1970. In 1968 he was a prizewinner in the Second International Wallpaper Design Competition in London.

It was at this time he experienced one of the many rude awakenings into the real world, when a group of original finished drawings which he had been working on in the V&A, (Victoria and Albert Museum), disappeared over-night from his work station at the college; it became a complete mystery and these drawings were never found… Six months later the mystery was solved when, to much acclaim, some of the very same drawings appeared in a collection of printed fabrics, published by a well-known company – their designer, a tutor at the Royal College of Art. The J.C.R. (Junior Common Room – the Students’ Union at the RCA) were incensed. They proposed to challenge the tutor and take the matter further, but, as David pointed out at the time, there was no immediate proof of theft – the person concerned had not been caught in the act  – the only evidence was circumstantial. So, at his instruction, the situation was never taken any further; but as Sophocles has stated, ‘rather to fail with honour than to succeed by fraud’.

A selection of four original drawings – ink and gouache on paper, which together with other drawings, were developed into the fifteen hangings (500cm x 100cm, pigment dye screen prints on cotton), printed 1968-70.

In 1969 he was a prizewinner in the painting competition sponsored by Harrods in conjunction with the R.C.A. That same year he was awarded the H.W. Sanderson Travel Scholarship by the R.C.A. – during that summer he travelled extensively throughout the Unites States of America, Canada and Mexico. In 1970 he co-designed a range of earthenware for Habitat and he was a prize winner in the Second International Textile Design Competition, Paris. He designed a range of decorated glassware which was put into production. His work was exhibited at Bloomingdales, New York together with other students from the R.C.A. and at the Scences Gallery, London.

1970-1974

In 1970 David graduated with a plural degree from the R.C.A. together with a first class honours degree for his dissertation and was ready now to progress as a painter, printmaker with the wealth of experiences which had come his way.

Various opportunities were offered to him in London including a contract with a major art gallery; but he was aware that his ageing parents were in poor health so therefore he left London reluctantly and headed back to the North to be nearer to them and hopefully to be of some help. He lived in Barnsley where he had his studio and began working on a new body of work. He taught at Batley College of Art, Huddersfield Polytechnic and later York College of Art. For a period of time he held the position of lecturer in these establishments of Further and Higher Education, both full-time and later part-time, as head of department in the Schools of Design and Schools of Fine Art. He had a social conscience and was motivated to share his experience with young students. This was something David retained throughout his life and it was at this time that he seriously considered leaving the world of Art and Design to serve the community in a practical way by becoming a nurse. To this end he sent for the appropriate application forms from Médecins Sans Frontières. After considerable heart searching, David realised he couldn’t turn his back on his vocation as an artist. He remained hopeful that opportunities in the future would present themselves whereby he could give something meaningful, beautiful and profound, and therefore he continued his work.

In 1967 he had made a drawing of a strawberry in a commercial art style for advertising. Later he adapted the drawing by enlarging it and he printed the image at the base of a hanging. Then in 1969 he began a series of thirty paintings and a suite of five accompanying screen prints using the strawberry motif. In 1972 Strawberry 2 from the suite was included in the Third British International Print Biennale, held in Bradford. The print was included also in the subsequent touring exhibition visiting the Oxford Gallery, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, among other venues. His work was included in the British Council Exhibition of print-makers to Israel. In 1974 the Strawberry Series of works were completed and were exhibited for the first time at the New Gallery, Batley College of Art and then later at The Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield.

Then David started a new suite of works of pastels on paper which included A Window on the World, A cup of cold water and Five Rainbows and broken eggs.

1974-1979

In 1974 David went to the aide of a young woman who was being attacked by a gang of youths – they attacked him, kicking his head as though it was a football. He lay unconscious before being hospitalised with concussion and a suspected fractured skull… he recovered; however he was unable to paint for five years, eventually he began to do a little teaching part-time and friends helped by showing some of his work at the Vision Gallery which had opened in Sheffield.

In 1976 David met his long term, life partner Nicholas Coombes (linguist, Francophile, teacher, lecturer, art gallery manager and writer) and they set up home together. In the same year he made some drawings but it was not until 1979 that he resumed work again properly, thanks greatly to the help of his partner Nick. After the long pause the question to be answered was “where does one go to now, what direction”? He returned to ‘Nature’ as the main theme for his work and gradually picked up the pieces and journeyed onwards.

1979-1997

From this time a new body of work was gradually built up.

In 1981 David was awarded a Yorkshire Arts Association Award. His work was included in the Kirklees Artists Exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery (Nimbus, The Wood and The Park). In 1982 he exhibited in ‘The Art of the Craft’ at The Piece Hall Art Gallery, Halifax. In the same year his work (Coin du Jardin) was shown in the Garden Exhibition, a National competition – which toured around the country.

‘A retrospective:- David Platts: Works 1968 -1983’, again at The Piece Hall, took place in 1983. Brompton Gallery, London became his agent and his paintings were shown in the gallery during ’83, ’84, ’85, ’86 and ’87. In 1984 the Brompton Gallery took his work to the First International Contemporary Art Fair at the Barbican, London and also the Second International Art Fair at Olympia.

During 1987 he had a one person show at Quinton Green Fine Art, London in Cork Street and his work was shown in a group show at the Grape Lane Gallery, York. In 1988 he exhibited at the Winter Exhibition – Ferens Art Gallery, Hull and during the summer he participated in various York Festival Exhibitions which included his one person show ‘Enigmatic Variations’ at the Grape Lane Gallery. 1989 saw the opening of another one person show at the Grape Lane Gallery, ‘Works on Paper’.

In 1989 he became ill and was diagnosed with ME and clinical depression. Later David suffered a complete break-down and in 1991 was unable to do any work until 1995 when he began a series of drawings beginning with a self-portrait (this was a statement really saying “I have survived, I am here still”)! Two paintings of his were included in ‘The York Open’ exhibition at the York City Art Gallery in 1993. In 1997 he began painting once again.

1997-2007

In the summer of 1997 David began a sustained period of work as he recovered.

In 2005 he began to show his work at Sheridan Russell Gallery, London who also took his paintings to the Affordable Art Fairs in the Spring of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007 he was offered a one person show at Sheridan Russell – ‘De Profundis’.

2007-2013

During this period David continued to work. Sheridan Russell took his paintings to the Cambridge and Birmingham Art Fairs in 2008. In 2010 he produced the series Strawberry Reprise and in 2012-13 came Blue Tondo after an extensive series of working drawings were made. Then in 2013 David was diagnosed with heart disease. His cholesterol level was normal, some arteries had narrowed because of age.

2013-2020

After diagnosis and tests David was admitted into hospital for a triple heart bypass operation during the Spring of 2014. He was recovering with the help of his partner Nicholas when suddenly, Nick became ill and was finally diagnosed with bowel cancer. Before and after a series of operations, David was his main carer until Nicholas’ death from sepsis and complete organ failure in August 2017. He was utterly devastated, even to the extent that the reason to continue to live himself, nearly left him.

In addition, in 2017 it was discovered that he had cataracts in both eyes and also age-related macular degeneration was diagnosed. By swift action and the commencement of treatment at York Hospital Eye Clinic the deterioration and loss of sight has been halted.

Throughout this period, although no painting was made, David was drawing when he had the opportunity to do so. This drawing formed the structure of his new work which began in the Spring of 2018 and continues into 2019, together with the commencement of painting once again.

In November 2019 David suffered a severe heart attack. But he recovered and by February 2020 he was back in the studio. As of September 2020, it is wonderful to be able to announce, especially after all the setbacks of the last few years, that David is exhibiting again.

Some of his work is included in a new exhibition, ‘NEBODY’, at The Aviary in Newcastle upon Tyne, a branch of a creative company based in London. The exhibition runs from 9th September to 4th October 2020 (and is to be extended for a further month beyond the official closing date).

Aviary Art Limited made the following announcement: This collective showcase brings together a unique family of established and emerging home grown talent from Newcastle and the North East of England. Here we highlight the best of what the region has to offer in art, design and sculpture from some of the most respected creators in the region.

David is delighted to be included in this exhibition and urges anyone wishing to see his work to visit the exhibition if they possibly can.

As from September 2020 David is happy to announce that he has joined the stable of artists represented by Aviary Art Limited.

DAVID PLATTS

is reluctant to talk about his work as he believes very strongly that the work should speak for itself. It should be approached with an open mind uncluttered by any preconceptions or wordy explanations. These can often get in the way and prevent the viewer from experiencing the work at first hand with an open heart, so that its magic and metaphysical nature can sing freely to the receptive soul.

(1997)

PERSONAL STATEMENT

At a time of so much information and worldy explanations, I choose to rarely make statements about my work. Too much knowledge can cloud our perceptions and steer us away from the ‘truth’.

Suffice to say that paintings have a kinship with a drama peopled by shapes of colour with individual character, be they large or small, in line or solid form, glossy or flat, translucent or opaque, textured or mirror-like. Sometimes the shapes exist singularly free within their own space, sometimes fully interlocking and sometimes even travelling over the boundaries of the outer frame.

The work asks to be contemplated, for it is through contemplation that the pieces have emerged into life – the initial concept being derived from memories, observations, feelings and emotions.

The works are no random abstractions from the concrete world that we inhabit, but a distillation of life’s experiences, both visual and metaphysical, rendered in paint – the rhythms, the quicknesses and the stillnesses which characterise the human condition.

(2000)

THE ART OF DAVID PLATTS

is profoundly contemplative and metaphoric. Industrial coach enamels and household paints (which first made their appearance in his work in the 1960’s) are used alongside the more traditional media of watercolour, gouache, oil and acrylic. He works from a premise of “an order in space” and every stage of the making of the artifact is meticulously controlled. The motif of either single or multiple fully interlocking shapes is developed with numerous permutations and combinations and nothing is left to chance – the “accident” has no role to play in his work. The picture plane, its boundaries and surround are considered as a whole: the frame is conceived as an integral part of the painting, the image sometimes growing organically beyond the generally accepted boundaries of the picture surface onto the frame.

Through colour, line, form and texture David Platts expresses profound degrees of feeling, the scale and intensity of which vary in nature as a sonata may vary from a symphony.

(2005)

EDUCATION & TRAINING

1957-65
Commercial Artist (London & the Provinces)

1965-67
York School of Art

1967-70
Royal College of Art

1970-91
Lecturer in painting, drawing and design in Fine Art and Design Departments at various Art colleges, Polytechnics and Universities

1970-present
Professional Artist. Paintings, drawings and prints in corporate and private collections in Great Britain, the U.S.A. and Europe

EXHIBITIONS

1970 
The Royal College of Art. Degree show
Bloomingdales, New York. Group show
Scences Gallery, London. Group show
New Gallery, Batley. One person show

1972 
Third British International Print Biennale, Bradford

1972-73 
International Print Biennale selected touring exhibition to the following venues:
DLI Museum and Arts Centre, Durham
Oxford Gallery
Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
University of East Anglia
Kettle’s Yard Gallery Cambridge
Newport Museum and Art Gallery

1974 
British council touring exhibition to Israel of works by British printmakers. Group show
New Gallery, Batley. One person show
Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield. One person show
Represented by Laurence Johnson Associates, London, briefly

1975 
Vision Art Gallery, Sheffield. Group show
Vision Art Gallery, Sheffield. Group show

1976 
Vision Art Gallery, Sheffield. Group show

1974-79

No work was produced during this period due to a mugging and its aftermath

1981-1991

1981
Yorkshire Arts Association Award
Kirklees Artists Exhibition, Huddersfield Art Gallery. Group show

1982
The Art of the craft Exhibition, The Piece Hall Art Gallery, Halifax. Group show

1982-83
The Garden Exhibition. Group show, touring to the following venues:
Ellingham Mill Art Gallery, Suffolk; Peterborough Art Gallery
The Playhouse Art Gallery, Harlow; The Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield
The Winchester Art Gallery, Winchester

1983
David Platts: Works, 1968-1983, The Piece Hall Art Gallery, Halifax. One person retrospective show
Brompton Gallery, London. Summer exhibition of gallery artists

1984
First International Contemporary Art Fair, London
Represented by the Brompton Gallery
Brompton Gallery, London. Summer exhibition of gallery artists

1985
Second International Contemporary Art Fair, London
Represented by the Brompton Gallery
Brompton Gallery, London. Spring exhibition of gallery artists

1986
Brompton Gallery, London. Summer exhibition of gallery artists

1987
Quinton Green Fine Art, London. One person show
Represented by Salama Caro Gallery, London briefly
Grape Lane Gallery, York. Group show

1988
Ferens Art Gallery, Hull. Winter exhibition
York Festival Exhibitions:
Enigmatic Variations, Grape Lane Gallery, York. One person show
Points of View, Priory Street Gallery, York. Group show

1989
‘Works on Paper’, Grape Lane Gallery, York. One person show

1992
Zillah Bell Art Gallery, Thirsk. Group Exhibition

1993
The York Open, City Art Gallery, York

1991-1995

A period of indisposition, no work was produced during this period due to the onset of ME and then a complete breakdown

1995-present

1995
Began a series of drawings

1997
Painting resumed

2005 
Autumn Exhibition, Sheridan Russell Gallery, London

2006 
The Affordable Art Fair, London (Spring). Represented by the Sheridan Russell Gallery
Spring Exhibition, Sheridan Russell Gallery
Sculpture Plus, Sheridan Russell Gallery

2007
The Affordable Art Fair, London (Spring). Represented by the Sheridan Russell Gallery
Spring Exhibition, Sheridan Russell Gallery
De Proundis – One Person Show, Sheridan Russell Gallery

2008
The Affordable Art Fair (Spring). Represented by the Sheridan Russell Gallery
The Cambridge Art Fair. Represented by the Sheridan Russell Gallery
The Birmingham Art Fair. Represented by the Sheridan Russell Gallery

2009
The Affordable Art Fair (Spring). Represented by the Sheridan Russell Gallery

2013-2017
No large scale work was produced during this period due the onset of heart disease, a heart operation and the death of his partner. A series of drawings made during this time however formed the structure of new work which began in the Spring of 2018.

2020
‘NEBODY’, The Aviary, Newcastle upon Tyne – Group Exhibition