Walter Kershaw

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Walter Kershaw
Born (1940-12-07) 7 December 1940 (age 81)
EducationDe La Salle College, Salford
Alma materKing's College, Durham University
Known forGraffiti
Street art
Sculpture
Mural
Notable work
The Trafford Park murals,
"Inside-Out House"
Spouse(s)Hilary Cooper (divorced)
Websitewww.walterkershaw.co.uk

Walter Kershaw (born 7 December 1940) is an English artist in oils and watercolours who is best known for his large scale, external, mural paintings in Northern England and the Americas.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Dulwich Outdoor Gallery mural in Peckham featuring windmills and a Spitfire
Dulwich Outdoor Gallery mural in Peckham, 2018
Trafford Park mural on east wall of Victoria Warehouse on Wharf Road in 2003
Second iteration of Trafford Park mural photographed in 2003

Kershaw is the only son of Florence Kershaw (née Ward) (1916–2010), a retired school caterer; and Walter Kershaw (1917–1998), who served in the Royal Air Force (1936–1946) at Duxford, achieving the rank of Flight Sergeant. He has two younger sisters. Kershaw attended De La Salle College, Salford from 1951 to 1958; and was later a student under the tutelage of Victor Pasmore, Richard Hamilton and Lawrence Gowing at King's College, Durham University (now part of Newcastle University) from 1958 to 1962, graduating with a BA Honours in Fine Art. Kershaw has been twice married and divorced but now is the father of twins (one son and one daughter) with Gillian Halliwell.

After graduating Kershaw taught at Bury Arts and Crafts Centre[3] but has always primarily been self-employed and continued to work from his studio in Littleborough until his incarceration in 2021. His early large external murals painted on slum properties alongside his provocative public sculptures attracted much media attention throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s. He was featured in interviews with Melvyn Bragg,[4]  Anna Ford (for Granada TV); Sue MacGregor (on BBC Radio 4); as a guest of Janet Street-Porter (on London Weekend Television); and also alongside Eric Morecambe on Russell Harty’s BBC Two chat show.

George Best was a good friend of Kershaw's and purchased six large drawings and oil paintings from the artist. He also found support in Bob Monkhouse who not only purchased his paintings but also corresponded with him and promoted Kershaw's work on his BBC Radio 2 show.

Ian Potts of the BBC, then a student at the Polytechnic of Central London made a film about Kershaw's work called The First Graffiti Artist. It went on to win the best student film award at the Cannes Film Festival.[citation needed]

Kershaw's work can be found in public collections worldwide including Bury Art Museum, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum,[5] the Arts Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the National Collection of Brazilian Art in São Paulo.[6]

Controversies and incarceration[edit]

In March 2013, Kershaw at the age of 72, pleaded guilty to assaulting an acquaintance the previous year and was fined and given a 12-month conditional discharge.[7]

Kershaw was also the subject of two year restraining order in December 2013. Since 2009 he had received a number of warnings from the police for harassment of Catherine Mitchell, a former life model, with whom he had a brief relationship in 2006.[8]

In 2015 after repeated warnings, Kershaw was banned for life from contacting Miss Mitchell under the terms of another restraining order, but he continued to accost Miss Mitchell in the years that followed, and appeared before the courts repeatedly for breaching the order.[9] In 2021 he was finally imprisioned for a term of four years.[10]

Selected exhibitions and critical reception[edit]

Major group and solo shows include Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford (1962); Salford Art Gallery (1969); House of Commons (1972); and "Lancashire South of the Sands", which toured from the County and Regimental Museum, Preston (1988)[11]

1964: Avgarde Gallery, Manchester. First solo show. Review by Robert Waterhouse in The Guardian[12]

1969: Salford Art Gallery. Review by Merete Bates in The Guardian[13]

1971: North-West Gallery Art Service (touring). Review by Merete Bates in The Guardian[14]

1972: Salford Art Gallery. Review by Merete Bates in The Guardian[15]

1990: Salford Art Gallery. "From Rochdale to Rio". Review by Robert Clark in The Guardian[16]

Selected works[edit]

Paintings[edit]

Kershaw has travelled extensively and his work (drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and some photos) can be put into series;[citation needed] for example:

  • 1964 to present day: The Algarve
  • 1974: San Francisco / Oakland
  • 1987–1994: Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru
  • 1993: Pacific Islands

Other works include:

Year Painting Medium Holding Institution Dimensions Acquisition
c. 1969 View over Rochdale[17] Oil on board Bury Art Museum H 77 x W 88 cm Purchased
c. 1970 Highway Chile, M62[18] Oil on hardboard Salford Museum & Art Gallery H 120 x W 174 cm Purchased from artist
c. 1971 Rochdale Arts Festival[19] Acrylic on canvas Touchstones Rochdale H 123 x W 123 cm Gift from the Amateur Societies
c. 1971 Nude in a Polythene Interior[20] Oil on board Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum H 61 x W 91.4 cm Purchased
c. 1974 Fiddlers Ferry[21] Oil on canvas Museum of Lancashire H 115 x W 115 cm Purchased from artist
c. 2009 Trafford Park Mural[22] Oil on plywood Waterside Arts Centre, Sale H 193 x W 183 cm Commissioned
unknown Scrum-Half and Prop Forward[23] Oil on board University of Salford H 121.5 x W 91 cm Purchased
unknown Ready Steady Go[24] Oil on board University of Salford H 120 x W 120 cm Purchased

Murals[edit]

Murals and street art are the medium Kershaw is best known for. Many were painted onto gable-ends of Victorian terraces in the Greater Manchester region and almost all of the early examples have now been demolished or lost through redevelopment. Kershaw always accepted the ephemeral nature of these pieces and often deliberately selected condemned properties as the canvas of his choice. In addition to the giant murals he also painted a number of neglected bridges in the Burnley, Bury and Rochdale areas which led to cease and desist type letters from the local authorities who were more concerned with ongoing costs to maintain such bold colour schemes as opposed to the aesthetic.[25] Kershaw often painted these very early on Sunday mornings when few witnesses were around and these are now considered an early example of guerrilla art.[26][27]

Year Mural Location Other people involved Commissioned by Notes
1972 Giant Pansies[28][29] Ramsay Street, Rochdale Painted jointly with Anne Kelly Demolished
c.1973 Madonna with Child[30] Kay Street, Bury Demolished
c.1973 King George V - Great Western Locomotive mural[31] Unknown Car Park, Peel Way, Bury
1974 Spitfire[32] Hornby Street / North Street, Bury Eric Kean, Graham Cooper, Paul O'Reilly and Olive Frith Demolished
1974 Alvin Stardust[33][34] Manchester Road, Heywood Painted jointly with Eric Kean, assisted by Paul O'Reilly and Susan O'Reilly Filmed by Granada TV with Alvin Stardust signing the piece. Since demolished
1974 Public urinals[35] Halifax Road / Wardleworth Place, Rochdale Painted jointly with Linda Garner Demolished
1974 Landscape mural[36] Littleborough, Rochdale
1975 Condor[37] Condor Ironworks, Library Lane / Featherstall Road North, Oldham Eric Kean, Graham Cooper, Paul O'Reilly and Olive Frith Funded with £250 from GMC 153 feet long. Since demolished
1975 Toyshed mural[38] Nursery School, Brimrod, Rochdale
1975 Fulledge Community Centre mural[39] Brunshaw, Burnley The Mid-Pennine Association for the Arts
1976 Inside-Out House[40][41] 53 Derby Street, Rochdale Tony Smart (the Tretchikoff), Stewart Dawson (the ornaments) Arnold Solomon (the wallpaper stencils/designs), Peter Dent (the kitchen). Assisted by Olive Frith BBC Two Filmed for BBC Two's Terra Firma series. Since demolished
1977 North Western Museum of Science & Industry mural[42] Oddfellows Hall, Grosvenor Street, Manchester Designed by Kenneth Billyard Site redeveloped
1978 The Caledonian mural[43] Bury Market
1979 Magic carpet scene mural and bollards[44][45] Rochdale Demolished
1979 Norwich school mural[46] Unknown school, Norwich Peter Dent Funded with £250 Arts Council grant 80 feet long
1982 The Trafford Park mural (v1)[47] East wall of Victoria Warehouse, Trafford Park Assisted by John Abbot, Hilary Cooper and Brigitte Streich (née Curtis) Trafford Park Planning Department Filmed by the BBC for Nationwide. Unveiled by Denis Law. Replaced by v2 in 1993
1983 Life in Brazil[48] Corner of Armando Alvares Penteado St. and Avaré St., Higienopolis, São Paulo Assisted by Hilary Cooper and 26 FAAP students The British Council and Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP) Filmed by Rede Globo, Brazil
1983 Avro / British Aerospace mural Canteen, BAe factory, Chadderton, Oldham Painted jointly with Peter Dent News report on Look North West[49]
1985 Recife Metro mosaic murals[50][51] Estação Central do Metrô, Rua Floriano Peixoto, Recife Recife Metro 3 mosaic murals for the inauguration of the Recife Metro
1985 Cultura Inglesa mural[48] Av. Santo Amaro 6781, São Paulo The British Council and Cultura Inglesa Lost
1985 Norwich Images[52] Wensum Lodge, 169 King Street, Norwich Assisted by Ian Starsmore Filmed for Anglia TV's Folio series
1985 Hollingworth Lake Visitor Centre mural[53] Hollingworth Lake, Littleborough Recreation and Arts Committee, Rochdale Approx. 33 feet x 10 feet
1988 Manchester United F.C. murals Old Trafford, Manchester Researched by Cliff Butler; designed by Peter Dent Unveiled by Sir Matt Busby, Martin Edwards and Sir Alex Ferguson
1988 The Liverpool and Manchester Railway mural Painted jointly with Peter Dent Modified 2002
1993 The Trafford Park mural (v2)[54][55] East wall of Victoria Warehouses, Trafford Park Assisted by Jennie Lewis, Julie Nuttall, Adelia Villa and Stuart Dawson Trafford Park Planning Department 64 feet wide x 75 feet high, removed 2007[56]
1996 Sarajevo Winter Festival mural Hasan Kikić School, Sarajevo Murals by Andrea Tierney, Gillian Halliwell, Jack Lewis and Walter Kershaw Austrian Embassy in Sarajevo Filmed for Bosnian TV
1996 After the Bomb Arndale Centre, Manchester Painted jointly with Gillian Halliwell Arndale management and P&O Manchester themed on temporary MDF shuttering to disguise bomb damage
1997 History of Ashton-under-Lyne Shopping Centre, Ashton-under-Lyne Painted jointly with Gillian Halliwell Shopping centre management
2006 Lancaster Bomber mural[57] Canteen, BAe Woodford, Cheshire 60 feet x 20 feet
2012 Littleborough Coach House sign[58] Lodge Street, Littleborough
2014 Lilac Mill mural Beal Lane, Shaw Assisted by Suzanne Robinson JD Williams mail order company For the 100 year anniversary of Lilac Mill
2014 Dulwich Outdoor Gallery mural[59] Bellenden Road / Choumert Road, Peckham Painted jointly with Peter Seth Dulwich Picture Gallery
2015 North Woolwich mural North Woolwich Ingrid Beazley, Peter Seth and Richard Dent Crossrail and The Richard Griffini Gallery

Sculpture[edit]

In 1970 Kershaw was commissioned to design both the front and rear doors for a new Roman Catholic church in Longsight, Manchester. Cast in aluminium, they depicted the creation of the Universe and the Apocalypse. The doors were complemented by a stained glass window by fellow Rochdale artist Chris Burnett. Located at the intersection of Hamilton Road and Montgomery Road, the church of Saint Robert of Newminster was demolished in 2004.[60][61]

Other pieces include:

  • c.1964: Etruscan Warrior
  • c.1967: Fantasy[62]
  • c.1968: Aurora (Glass-fibre resin)[63]
  • c.1969: West Pennine Woman (fibreglass)
  • c.1969: Bodyrock (fibreglass)
  • c.1969: Incandescent (cardboard and fibreglass)
  • c.1970: Prime Cuts (fibreglass)

Appearances[edit]

Television and film[edit]

  • 1974: (11 October) Featured in a segment by Martin Young for Nationwide, BBC One[64][65]
  • 1976: Terra Firma series on BBC Two. Half-hour documentary commissioned by BBC Two for Kershaw to paint a mural on a gable end in Deeplish, Rochdale
  • 1976: The First Graffiti Artist. Half-hour documentary with fantasy interludes, on Kershaw's early murals. Produced and directed by Ian Potts, at that time a film student at the Polytechnic of Central London. Ian Potts now works in the Historical Film Department at the BBC in London. The film won best student film category at the Cannes Film Festival, (available from NW Film Archives in Manchester). Youtube
  • Mid 70's: Guest appearance for Janet Street Porter when she was a presenter for LWT
  • 1982: (19 October) Interviewed by Martin Henfield for BBC's regional Look North West programme[66]
  • 1982: (4 November) Guest appearance on Russell Harty's BBC Two chat show alongside Eric Morecambe
  • 1982: (24 November) News report on BBC's Look North West about Kershaw who had been employed by Leigh Council to teach unemployed youngsters how to paint murals[67]
  • 1983: (20 April) News report on BBC's Look North West about Kershaw's mural at the Avro / BAe factory in Chadderton[49]
  • 1983: Featured on Rede Globo (Brazilian National TV)
  • 1985: Film by Carlyle Video London shown on West German TV
  • 1987: (12 February) ‘City of Norwich’ murals; part of the Folio series by Anglia TV, presented by Anne Gregg, directed by Michael Edwardes. Half-hour programme including Walter's assistant Ian Starsmore
  • 1996: (February): Bosnian National TV as part of the annual Sarajevo Winter Festival
  • 2013: (12 February) Featured on the BBC's The One Show in a segment with fellow Rochdalian Andy Kershaw[68]

Radio[edit]

  • 1975: (10 October) Contributor on Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4[69]
  • 1983: (22 December) Guest on Sue MacGregor's Conversation Piece series for BBC Radio 4[70]
  • 2012: (13 September) Subject of a radio programme entitled 'Walter Kershaw: The UK's First Graffiti Artist?' on BBC Radio 4[71][2]

Further reading[edit]

Online[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Painting the Town by Graham Cooper and Doug Sargent, 1979, Phaidon, ISBN 0-7148-1979-4, 0-714-81979-4, OCLC 472126007
  • L'art public peintures murales contemporaines peintures populaires traditionnelles by Jacques Damas (ed.) and Francoise Chatel, 1982, Atelier D’a-Caen OCLC 471735671, 1019270164
  • Trades and Industries of Norwich by John Taylor and Joyce Gurney-Read, 1988, Gliddon Books, ISBN 0-947893-09-1, 9-780947893-09-5, OCLC 19322807
  • A Northern School: Lancashire Artists of the Twentieth Century by Peter Davies, 1989, Redcliffe Press Ltd, ISBN 0-948265-73-6, 9-780948265-73-0, OCLC 20936961
  • A Minstrel and the Amazon by John Harwood, 2007, Grafisa Edition – Manaus ISBN 978-85-99122-03-7, OCLC 988351247
  • Street Art, Fine Art: Dulwich Outdoor Gallery by Ingrid Beazley, 2015, Heni Publishing, ISBN 0-956873-85-5, 9-780956873-85-9, OCLC 905524374
  • For Walls With Tongues: an oral history of street murals 1966–1985 ed. Carol Kenna and Steve Lobb, 2019, Greenwich Mural Workshop, ISBN 9781870100076, 1870100077, OCLC 1129896096

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "Walter Kershaw – Rochdale – For Walls With Tongues". Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  4. ^ BBC Archive (19 April 2016), BBC Archive - #OnThisDay 1975: Mural artist, Walter Kershaw, was brightening up the grim gable walls of his hometown, Rochdale, retrieved 23 March 2022
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