Artist Cavan's first exhibition in the Midlands for 25 years

Paris, Texas, Heath Hayes... Over the past 25 years, Cavan Corrigan's paintings have been shown in galleries around the world.

Cavan Corrigan is holding his first UK exhibition in 25 years at Heath Hayes library
Cavan Corrigan is holding his first UK exhibition in 25 years at Heath Hayes library

The Staffordshire artist's misty landscapes of urban France, his gritty depictions of life in the coal mines of Cannock, and familiar landmarks with a fresh twist have achieved worldwide recognition. But now he's back, with his first exhibition in the UK for a quarter of a century.

After spending most of the past two decades focusing on Paris and the US, the 79-year-old has returned to the West Midlands, and is holding an exhibition at Heath Hayes library. It is the first time he has exhibited in the UK since 1996, when he held an event at Donegal House in Lichfield.

There is a bit of wry humour in his latest exhibition, with many of his paintings featuring familiar landmarks as you have never seen them before.

Lichfield Cathedral features in several of his new works. In some it forms the backdrop to battle scenes during the English Civil War, surrounded by horse-mounted Cavaliers and soldiers firing cannons. In another, it is given the Gallic treatment, with an elegant mademoiselle sheltering under an umbrella, while a 1940s Citroen driving past the lush green trees.

"I spent 25 years painting for Paris galleries, so my pictures have a lot of French influence," he says.

Showtime, Cavan captures the atmosphere of a Parisian nightclub
Cavan says he is very fond of Venice

The painting of a coal miner leading a pit pony beneath the ground is a nod to his Staffordshire home – while scenes of inner-city Spain, showing immaculately dressed senoritas on balconies of distressed-looking flats are influenced by the time he has spent in Spain.

"I've done a lot of pictures of the coal mines in Cannock," he says. "I do a lot of pictures of balconies, when you go to some of the towns in Spain, the buildings are very tightly packed. The balconies are very close to each other, and you see people sitting on their balconies about 6ft apart. They are not anywhere specific, they are quite generic, I would say Santander is very much like that."

A Parisian nightclub scene, complete with Can-Can dancers and an orchestra is also on show, along with a classic scene from Venice.

Cavan regularly exhibited his work in Cannock and Lichfield from the 1970s to the 1990s, and scenes around Lichfield, including the city's famous cathedral, formed much of his early works. But Cavan also became fascinated with capturing the desolation of France's tourist traps during the out-of-season periods, and some of his paintings began to reflect that.

Cavan has painted many French scenes over the past quarter of a century
All the fun of the fair in this painting

In 1993, his work came to the attention of an art gallery in central Paris, which offered to hold an exhibition, and Cavan decided it was time to relocate.

"For the next 25 years, Paris was the hub of my work, and then the USA as my paintings went worldwide," he says.

"It was a successful quarter of a century, but the Paris gallery closed when the owner retired, and Brexit restricted further work in Europe, so I chose to re-establish myself in the UK.

Cavan was born in 1942 in Barnard Castle, the small market town in north-east England made infamous as where former government adviser Dominic Cummings went to 'test his eyesight'.

The English Civil War rages around Lichfield Cathedral in this painting

At the age of seven, his parents noticed his talent for drawing, and sent him to a local art society. It was there he came under the guidance of Douglas Pittuck, a renowned painter whose paintings are in the Queen's collection.

Pittuck remained his mentor until he left to study Fine Art at Durham University. Cavan showed an aptitude for capturing people in his work, and figures remained a vital focus in his work ever since.

After graduating with an honours degree in fine art, he became an art lecturer in 1964. He began visiting Spain with his wife and son, and then found inspiration in the Camargue region of southern France.

After working for 12 years as a teacher, Cavan decided he wanted to paint full time, and by the 1990s his work was attracting attention in France.

His art work is influenced by the cities and landscapes of Europe, the spontaneity of the impressionists, and the action of the Camargue. "Inspiration is everywhere, even in the drollness of everyday life there is something unusual or humorous worth noting," he says.

The exhibition at Heath Hayes library runs until October 27, and is open Tuesdays 2pm-4pm, Thursdays and Fridays 9am-1pm, and Saturdays 9.30am-1pm.

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