Views on the work of Ronald William Webb  



by Barnaby Edwards

"Music is the deepest of the arts and deep beneath the arts." E.M. Forster, The Raison d'Etre of Criticism in the Arts
Ronald Webb has always been passionate about music. About listening to it, about performing it, and above all about painting it. From his early realist works depicting street buskers and choreographers, to his acclaimed Composers exhibition for the Sa Nostra Foundation in 2007, music has played a central role in his art.

Like one of his heroes, Mark Rothko, Ron also has that physical love of paint itself: its texture, its fluidity, its quirks and its quiddities. It would be presumptuous to compare the two artists - and Ron himself would baulk at the temerity of any such comparison - but it is nevertheless interesting to note that both men attempt to capture the intangible and to trap it on canvas. For Rothko, with his spiritual bent, it is emptiness which fascinates him, pregnant as it is with possibility and ambiguity, faith and doubt. For Ron, it is music, with all its richness and simplicity, joy and horror.

This exhibition is about the relationship between the person who listens to music and the person who makes it. In this instance, that means Ronald William Webb and Kathleen Mary Ferrier.

As long as I've known Ron he has idolised Kathleen Ferrier, not just her voice but also her approach to life and her irrepressible spirit in the face of illness and adversity. Despite the fact that Ron was still in short trousers when Kathleen died, they have grown up together and the relationship they have forged can be seen captured in the canvases of this exhibition.

A quality shared by artist and subject is a refreshing lack of pomposity. Ron is the least pretentious person you could hope to meet, very much like Kathleen Ferrier herself, who signed her own paintings K.K. for "Klever Kath" with admirable self-irony. Ron's painting style, like Kathleen's singing, is not airy-fairy. The poetry they create derives from prosaic physical labour. Their art is the culmination of months of hard work and years of practice and experience. It's skill and determination that marks a true artist, not the talent they were born with.

Kathleen sang; Ron paints. Instead of vocal cords and a larynx, the tools he uses to make music are brushes and paint. The result is the same: lyrical, uplifting, moving. To quote another great painter of music, Wassily Kandinsky: "I applied streaks and blobs of colours onto the canvas with a palette knife and I made them sing with all the intensity I could."

THE COLOUR SEAS - by Juan Elorduy