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Ikon Gallery founder and artist David Prentice dies aged 77

David Prentice co-founded the original venue along with wife Dinah back in 1964

Husband and wife artists David and Dinah Prentice

An influential artist who was instrumental in setting up Birmingham’s Ikon gallery and became an internationally renowned watercolour painter has died.

Tributes have been paid to David Prentice, who co-founded the original venue, along with wife Dinah back in 1964.

Mr Prentice, who has passed away at the age of 77 following serious illness, was an artist who was prepared to push the boundaries in the name of his craft.

For one exhibition Mr Prentice, who is known for painting the Malvern Hills, where he lived battled with vertigo – after embarking of a series of birds’ eye views of London.

At the time in 2008 he told the Post: “The first drawings I did, I went down just before the Millennium Wheel was lifted. It was quite late, four o’clock-ish on an autumn afternoon, and it started lightning and I thought ‘Oh my God this is impossible’ – the combination of weather and having vertigo, which I do a bit – but I stuck it out and went back.”

Most of the views in that art show were based on drawings made from the roof of a tall office block called King’s Reach, just south of Blackfriars Bridge.

He said: “I was introduced to the safety officer, went up, read the rules of the game, and he said you’re not going to jump off, are you?

“I got up there, and at that point I thought this is almost beyond me. It was like a box within the roof area, so if you fell off you wouldn’t fall very far, but when you’re up there it’s very difficult to convince yourself it’s safe. When you’re up that high the world seems to start moving around you.

“I pulled myself together and as well as making drawings I took photographs, because it was so complicated I needed photographic evidence as well.”

The bravery paid off literally – the first painting from his one man London show sold for £27,500.

Mr Prentice trained at Moseley Road School of Art and Birmingham School of Art and played a leading role in founding Ikon Gallery in 1964.

 

At that time he was a painter of geometric abstracts, and the abstractionist tendency has never deserted his work even when it has represented the English countryside.

Ikon director Jonathan Watkins said: “David Prentice was a founder of Ikon, one of a few that had the vision to encourage artistic adventure in Birmingham.

“Energetic, very gifted and intelligent, he made an enormous contribution to our recent art history.

“David was painting right up until his last days – interestingly referring back in style to his seminal work from the early 60s – as keen and as generous as ever in his conversation.

“Our thoughts are very much with his wife Dinah and their family.”

The husbands and wife artists didn’t collaborate very often – but they did in 2004, which was a special anniversary.

Mrs Prentice told the Post: “We showed together at the 40th anniversary of the Ikon, but haven’t done so otherwise – we’ve been careful not to as what we do is very different.”

Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, a friend of Mr Prentice and his family, said: “He was part of a continuity of artists in Birmingham which perhaps we as a city aren’t always aware of.

“I don’t think we always realise how many good people we have got.

“We are also very lucky to have something like the Ikon. It is a place where we see amazing pieces of art in the city and something to be very proud of.

“He was such as nice and gentle man. Every time I think of him I hear his laughter.”

Mr and Mrs Prentice moved to Malvern Wells in 1990 and set up a studio in their home. Mr Prentice was known for walking through the nearby countryside, which provided him with inspiration for his work.

He kept on working to the end, curating an exhibition at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum called Skylight Landscape, and was at the opening on May 3.

He was born in Solihull and carried out national service with the Royal Artillery. He taught at Birmingham College of Art and Crafts, and City of Birmingham Polytechnic before retiring in 1986. After then he was artist in residence, or a visiting artist at Nottingham University, Trent Polytechnic, Oxford University and the UCE, and the acclaimed painter won numerous awards during his life.

He died at his home in Malvern Wells on Wednesday, May 7 and is survived by his wife Dinah and their children and grandchildren.

 

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