An exhibition of work by the artist behind the city’s famous Watch parades is on display at the University of Chester’s Kingsway Buildings.

Chester-based Russell Kirk’s exhibition is shown in the Contemporary  Art Space Chester (CASC) – a new  gallery development at the university.

Cllr Jill Houlbrook, Lord Mayor of Chester and chairman of Cheshire  West and Chester Council, officially  opened the exhibition.

 

Russell is responsible for a number of annual festivals and parades in Cheshire, most notably the Chester Midsummer Watch Parade.

Russel Kirk as the Jester in the Chester Winter Watch Parade
Russel Kirk as the Jester in the Chester Winter Watch Parade
 

The exhibition presents some of the  elements of the visualisation of the  parade, character objects and Kirk’s  narrative drawings.

CASC contains the university’s art and design department where students  study fine art, photography and graphic design.

Throughout the academic year, the gallery presents the latest work from students and staff with at least two  major shows from invited artists.

Russell studied combined arts (painting and music) at Dartington College  and later at Crewe and Alsager College where he graduated in 1982 with a BA (Hons) in integrated arts.

After graduating he set up a studio with fellow painters in a disused factory in Crewe where he produced large oil paintings based almost exclusively  on the landscape of North Wales and  Cumbria.

Alongside this, he set up a guitar  school teaching during the evenings  and weekends. It was during this time  he began to develop an interest in  performance and processional arts  while working on residential projects with Cheshire Dance Workshop.

On moving to Chester in the early 1990s, Russell became involved in various large-scale projects and events such as art festivals, outdoor theatre,  parades and productions of devised  theatre touring Europe.

His activities at this time included artistic design and production, composing and performing music, co-directing and organisational and administrative work.

Russell also developed a love for mosaics and started producing his own in 1996. Since then he has carried out a number of commercial and private commissions and has built up a sizeable catalogue of mosaic work.

He is responsible for a number of annual festivals and parades across the North West and his workshop activities mean he is a familiar face in many  schools and colleges in Cheshire and  surrounding counties.

Russell’s first book, the illustrated  re-telling of George and the Dragon, was published in 2011 and he is currently working on two further works due for  publication.

Although he still produces his own work for exhibition and private collections it is the large festive events that are his first love. This is epitomised by the Chester Midsummer Watch Parade where the elements of visual arts, music and performance all come together making it one of the most enjoyable and spectacular community events in the country.

Professor Neil Grant, head of department of art and design at the university, said: “For a number of years, through his public and community  work, Russell Kirk has made a significant contribution to the cultural life  of Chester.

“His achievement in many ways reflects the ambitions for the art and design department at the University of Chester and the Contemporary Art  Space Chester gallery project in particular.

“It is our hope that we can have a  positive impact upon the developing  visual culture in the city, to engage in  an exciting creative way with the wider  community and for our students to  contribute to building a dynamic creative environment.

“Russell has championed this type of broad inclusive artistic engagement working with schools, community groups and the wider public whilst continuing to develop his own witty narrative work. The exhibition at CASC presents a  snapshot of Russell’s intense playful  engagement with the visual and spectacle.”

Admission is free and CASC is open  from 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday. Visit

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