Cheshire Life

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Good art it seems is often born out of pain and such is the case with Malcom Croft’s work, a Stockport based artist who was forced to give up a successful career as a press photographer after an accident left him seriously injured.

As a photojournalist for the Press Association and the Manchester Evening News, Malcom had the great knack of being in the right place at the right time. He was on hand to capture the iconic image of Margaret Thatcher being battered with daffodils by a woman in Stockport in 1992. He snapped the scene in a sun swept Spanish square during Euro 1994, as English football fans ran riot and a bride and groom arrived in the middle of the mêlée, expecting wedding photographs by the fountain. He also won a slew of awards, including Photographer of the Year, for his coverage of the IRA bomb that exploded in Manchester city centre in 1996.

Both images featured in newspaper pages around the globe, but his career would ultimately be cut short. In 1994 he was hit by a car while cycling in Derbyshire . As the pain became chronic over time, he was forced to take early retirement and he hung up his camera in favour of a pallet and paint brush. He has though turned this misfortune to his advantage, without an art lesson in his life, his work is now winning rave reviews, and hangs in galleries next to works worth thousands.

His pictures of the countryside and domestic scenes are awash with bright swathes of colour and most have a warm, friendly feel. In the same vein as David Hockney, Malcolm’s work revels in the simple things in life, meal times, cooking, the countryside, little things that mean little in a busy work fuelled life, but mean so much when that life becomes restricted.

As well as Hockney, he is also influenced by Frida Kahlo, an iconic figure in Mexican art, who began her own painting career after suffering serious injuries in a bus crash, that left her immobilized at home and in constant pain.

Malcolm’s enforced domesticity has fired his imagination, he has been a full time dad to his two young sons, a position many fathers would envy and he has seen an angle of domestic life that realistically few men get to experience. Meal times, feature heavily, it is the time when as he says: “the family comes together” and a day of cooking, see it’s fitting conclusion at the dinner table. His still life images of home depict coffee pots and tomatoes, lemons and beer, empty plates, used cutlery and even a Pot Noodle.

He is also inspired by the beauty of the Cheshire countryside, were he used to enjoy fell walking with his father before the accident. They are simpler takes on Cheshire’s lush landscape, large vistas slimmed down to fit a canvas. He captures the grand arches of the Stockport Viaduct in a sharp red tone, and Alderley Edge in a painting that is made up of large blocks of colour, which makes the canvas almost resemble a church stained glass window. His work switches from urban to country scenes, with one depicting the Manchester ringroad in poetic fashion, urban malaise removed and traffic jams ironicly air brushed away.

It usually takes Malcom a couple of weeks to finish a picture,: “the ones that are completed quickly are usually the best,” he says, the ones completed in the spare of the moment, engendered by the photographer in him, who eyes up a perfect scene.

As his pain has worsened in recent years, he has split his time between Cheshire and the south of France were the sunshine acts as therapy. In a house he rents from friends; he has set up his own studio and has painted many French landscapes to add to his collection.

Malcom now says that: “painting has become him” in words that directly echo Frida Kahlo and like her, his work in the face of adversity is winning him great acclaim.

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