It’s a good many years now since Ray Balkwill was first recommended to me as a good local artist in the South Devon area. At the time, he was unpublished and it’s been gratifying to see a number of books appear with his name on, including Halsgrove’s Ray Balkwill’s Exe Estuary, which exclusively featured his paintings.
This attractive new volume, however, covers the work of a great many different artists as well as Ray himself and he acts as the overall editor, describing both what he refers to as, “An English Eden” and introducing the artists and the individual paintings. It’s worth the rather laborious process of listing the contributors in order to give you an idea of what a treasure-trove there is here:
Lionel Agett, Stephen Brown, Colin Allbrook, Alan Cotton, Alwyn Crawshaw, Stewart Edmondson, John Hammond, Judy Hepstead, Michael Hill, John Hoar, Robert Jennison, Paul Lewis, Michael Morgan, Tina Morgan, Robert Mountjoy, Martin Procter, Keith Stott, Richard Thorn, Barry Watkin and Tony Williams.
It’s a wonderfully varied selection and covers many different styles of painting and of subject, giving a very real sense of the county. I’ve been a visitor for many years and I’ve genuinely found this to be something to enjoy. If there’s a small niggle, it’s that some of the reproduction is maybe not up to the standard Halsgrove is capable of. This is almost certainly down to less-than-perfect transparencies and to not having the option of going back to the original paintings but, if you’re a perfectionist, it might be a slight fly in the ointment. One worth getting over, though.