Surreal or not Surreal: that is the art – in Worthing

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Upper Beeding artist John Shelley celebrates turning 80 last year with a retrospective exhibition in Worthing.

John Shelley: Surreal or not Surreal will be in Colonnade House from April 30-May 12 – a location which has huge appeal for him.

There is a plaque to the poet Shelley nearby: “And I like the idea of there being two Shelleys on the same road. People ask if I'm related to him and I say that if I'm not, then I really ought to be.”

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John has been painting since he was a child, having created hundreds of paintings and sketches. His medium of choice is oil paint for his paintings. When making drawings or sketches, John uses pencil to make his mark. Throughout the exhibition, John will be selling a selection of oil paintings and limited-edition prints of his sketches.

Work by John Shelley - 60 Watt ButterflyWork by John Shelley - 60 Watt Butterfly
Work by John Shelley - 60 Watt Butterfly

“The title of the exhibition is Surreal or not Surreal because that's the type of painting I do. I paint either figuratively or surreal, and the exhibition will be a mixture of both. And it covers quite a number of years. I'm showing a self-portrait that I did which was painted in 1976. I don't look like that now! But I think it's a brilliant painting. What it entails is that I am looking through a pair of binoculars and the image that you see is my self-portrait.

“There’s another one which is a painting of Ophelia from Hamlet. Millais painted her floating in the stream. She drowned herself because of unrequited love, and in my painting I follow her underwater. It's quite striking.

“I have always painted. It's a compulsion to paint. I have to do it. It's almost like a therapy. I try to draw something every day. I get edgy if I don't. I can't go longer than a few days without drawing. It is something about who I am. I have always been keen on images.”

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In Surreal or not Surreal, John will be showcasing a selection of original paintings and prints.

“My last exhibition was held in 2016 at Shoreham Library and was reported in the Worthing Herald at the time and was well received. The work I will be showing at Colonnade House will range from work made from the 1970s to the present day,” John added.