(Cricket) pictures at an exhibition

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To celebrate 270 years of cricket in Rye, Rye Cricket Club is organising Rye Cricket Week starting this weekend. As part of the celebrations, Rye Cricket Club is staging an exhibition of a unique series of cricket paintings and sketches by local artist David Ridgway. Most of the exhibits are in private ownership, they have never been exhibited before and are unlikely to be shown again in the Rye area.

Rye News was therefore lucky to catch an exclusive sneak preview of the impressive exhibition staged at the top floor of the Rye Cricket Club pavilion that has been turned into a professional gallery for the occasion. The paintings represent a sequence of cricket activities, but focus on the individual roles of all those involved in the game of cricket rather than merely depicting a match. A player at net practice, the tossing of the coin, batsmen opening the game, bowlers and batsmen in full swing…the large scale of the paintings and the distinctive style and colours draw the viewer inexorably towards what could be called a mural of cricket.

One of many superb cricket commissions from a locally-owned collection.

During the four months it took to paint the series, David immersed himself completely into the world of cricket, looking at thousands of photographs of cricketers, paying particular attention to their movements and their body language, and studying real life action at Rye Cricket Club. He sketched a series of drawings in mixed media (charcoal, pen, pencil, and water colour) of all the players and umpires in their respective roles. The paintings flowed seamlessly from the sketches, as can be readily ascertained by the presence of sketches and paintings in the same room.

However, David chose the subject matter to be not cricketers of today, but cricketers of the Edwardian era of the late 1920s and early 1930s, basing the paintings on actual games played at the cricket pitch at the Pelsham Estate in Peasmarsh which – as unbelievably as it sounds today – hosted touring cricket teams from India and the West Indies during that exact period.

The India game at Pelsham in 1932 was the first game played on English soil by the Indian National Team, so a major development in the history of cricket and a story that reaches to the modern day and the advent of the Indian Premier league (IPL). Sadly, cricket at Pelsham is no more, although Rye News has been told that cricket activities are scheduled to resume in the spring of 2024.

David acknowledges that the commission of the paintings had been a challenge: “My excitement lay in the novelty of the commission – could I capture a specific historical era in its clothing and expressions yet ground the work in a sense of timelessness? It felt as if I was participating as a 1920s cricketer. This four-month period catapulted me into an earlier time and space: even the colours were those I was unused to using. Suddenly instead of the ochres and browns with which I was accustomed to working, I found my work awash in pastel greens and pinks.”

The mural of cricket therefore is a testimony to a painter at the peak of his artistic powers, using these powers to propel himself in a new and exciting direction, a major staging post in his never ending artistic development.

David Ridgway is a practising artist with his own gallery, the Peacocke Gallery, 8 Lion Street, Rye where he exhibits his own paintings, drawings and prints to the public. His work is in homes and businesses throughout the world, more recently in Napa Valley, Munich and Amsterdam. His paintings, which are usually large scale, emerge from his imagination and perceptions of contemporary society, and yet reflect the images of classic artists down through the centuries. However, with no web presence to speak of and with no social media involvement, David’s world is centred around his gallery. This exhibition is therefore a unique opportunity to see his work.

The gallery at the Rye Cricket Club on the Rye Salts is open daily on match days between July 29 and August 2. Entry is free.

Saturday 1.00pm -7.00pm, Sunday 2.00pm -7.00pm, Monday 2.00pm -7.00pm, Tuesday 11.00am -7.00pm and Wednesday 11.00am -7.00pm.

Image Credits: David Ridgeway/Nick Forman .

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