He left his teens behind in the year of the 1985 Handsworth Riots, but painter Hurvin Anderson has returned to the city of his birth as a proud man.

The youngest son of eight children born to a housewife and welder father, his paintings are now rated so highly you’d need a healthy bank account to buy one.

And with sizes like 8ft x 11ft, a fairly big wall to hang some of them on, too.

“World class” might be an overused phrase in contemporary sporting commentaries, but it’s one that The Ikon Gallery director Jonathan Watkins doesn’t shy away from.

Not when he’s referring to Hurvin, the former pupil from Holte Comprehensive who went on to the Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art.

At 6ft 2ins tall and with an athletic frame, Hurvin is a gentle, giant of a man.

Silver whiskers add character to his face, not years, so it’s hard to believe that he’s 48, with two grown up children.

When he tells me his age, he laughs.

“Once you get past a certain age it doesn’t matter,” he says.

Now single, Hurvin’s demeanour is one of quiet pride.

Despite living in London, Hurvin bears the humble nature of a true Brummie.

“You come in, close the door... and get on with it,” he says of his approach to the physicality of painting inside his own studio.

As Hurvin shows me round his Ikon retrospective – one of its most valuable exhibitions in its history – his voice is as soft as his insights are fascinating.

Running through the works themselves is a theme of detachment, reflecting Hurvin’s life far removed from his Jamaican ancestors.

By growing up amongst his own community in Handsworth, he was close to home in one way, but a long way from his roots in another.

And so his work, like the giant Country Club: Chicken Wire (oil on canvas, 2008, roughly 8ftx11ft) reflects his position as an outsider in Trinidad looking in.

When Hurvin went to that country in 2002, he expected to feel relatively attached.

Jamaica is only 1,200 miles across the Caribbean Sea, so why would there be a difference?

“From that visit to Trinidad, I’ve put the questions that kept arising in my paintings,” he says.

Artist Hurvin Anderson's work on display at The Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.
Artist Hurvin Anderson's work on display at The Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.
 

“They’re about how you can be part of a place and that place can be part of you.

“I had a lack of a sense of place with being in England.

“So when I went to Trinidad, I questioned my sense of place in being somewhere I was expecting to be a part of.”

The inspirations for his works can be hazy – a photo his parents were sent in the 60s or 70s that just captured something, or one his sister sent to him more recently from Canada.

And when is a painting finished?

Hurvin shows me one that he went back to after a few years, once he’d seen where “the problems were”.

“It can be good to be forced to finish something,” says Hurvin, who signs and dates them on the back. “And there can be different ways of finishing things, otherwise some can end up over-painted.

“You change your time, and I could never make a painting like this again, because I would do things now as opposed to how I started painting.”

The sizes of his paintings are interesting, too.

Some are as big as garage doors – so what happens before committing paint to canvas?

“I plan things out and then decide on the size,” he explains. “I’ll draw something on the wall, and then order the stretched canvas.

“I’ll usually have two or three on the go at the same time.”

Reporting Back includes images of barbershops and tennis clubs as well as lakes, parks and beaches in countries as diverse as Jamaica and Trinidad and Birmingham and Canada.

By mixing memories with history, his works are familiar yet blurred from reality.

Like the title of his retrospective, they’re ambiguous and the fences, poles and trees create an extraordinary 3D effect with no cinema glasses required.

His style is to observe from a distance and to draw the viewer in, while emphasising how some things can seem to be out of reach for most of us.

Ikon Gallery director Jonathan Watkins says: “Hurvin is a rising star and one of the most talented artists in the world.

“It’s a big privilege for us to show this retrospective.”

Looking back, art has always been in his blood. But he’s matured along the way.

“I was making pictures before I went to art school and felt as though I wanted to make art,” says Hurvin.

“But once I went to school, what I was doing before was a different thing.

“If my dad had said to me ‘You are coming to the factory with me boy’, I would have gone.

“But my parents have been very supportive. They allowed me to work it out.”

* Hurvin Anderson Reporting Back is on at the Ikon Gallery until November 10.