Ian Hay was born in 1940 in Harwich and first attended the Art School in Colchester as a day-release student when he was 14 years old. There he was taught to draw plants by Richard ‘Dickie’ Chopping (1917-2008), well-known for his trompe l’oeil paintings which illustrated the covers of all the original James Bond books. It was Chopping who dissuaded Ian from joining the Merchant Navy and consequently Ian attended the Colchester School of Art when it was at the top of North Hill and included, among its staff, legendary people such as John Nash, Hugh Cronyn, Tony Atkinson, Nigel Henderson and Geoffrey Clarke. In 1960 Ian gained entrance to the Painting School at the Royal College of Art. There he was taught by Mary Fedden, Robert Buhler and Ruskin Spear and mixed with David Hockney, Ronald Brooks Kitaj, Patrick Caulfield, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips. After teaching as a Visiting Lecturer at the St Martin’s School of Art (1963-1977) and as a Tutor at the Norwich School of Art (1971-1975), Ian spent many years teaching at the Colchester School of Art where he was Senior Lecturer in Drawing from 1978 to 2001, imparting his knowledge and experience to future generations. (1) Consequently, in recognition to his dedication and talent, in 1996 a gallery was named after him at the Colchester School of Art (The Hay Gallery) and in 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Essex.
As early as 1963 he had already been awarded a Prize by the Royal College of Art for landscape painting, and became well known for his pastel paintings of London and the Thames. Pastels are a medium he loves to use, as they allow him to depict the changing moods and seasons of the urban landscape. He loves towns and cities and particularly enjoys drawing on location, whether it is London, Paris, Amsterdam or Venice, where the architecture is often echoed by waterways. If Ian predominantly paints outdoor scenes, capturing the rainy streets of London and misty views over glistening water, he also paints the local landscape of Essex or Suffolk, like Aldeburgh, which he loves. His drawings are done in a variety of media – charcoal and chalk, pastel, pencil and, pen and ink. He also occasionally makes prints, etchings and monotypes.
Ian has exhibited in many galleries and has works in major private and public collections (see below). He has been a member of the North Countryman’s Club in Colchester since 2002. He has also been Chairman of Selectors at Colchester Art Society since 2002 and Ian has rightly been compared to other great East Anglian artists such as John Sell Cotman (1782-1842), a leading member of the Norwich School of Artists and Edward Bawden (1903-1989), a key artist in the Bardfield group. Mick Smee (q.v.) a fellow artist and friend said of him “There are no quick-fix gimmicks in Ian Hay’s drawing/painting. His work stands as a testament to the value of fundamental skills.” (2) This makes him one of the greatest East Anglian artists of our time. Ian has been an active member of Colchester Art Society since 1967.
Journey’s End: Three Cars Rusting
In the early 1970s Ian began to draw scrap vehicles. Journey’s End was one of a number of abandoned military and commercial vehicles which he spotted from a train window close to the railway embankment at Ardleigh. He later visited the site on his bike armed with a sketch book. The site was literally an auto graveyard with vehicles of every description rusting away, probably since the end of the Second World War. This drawing was executed in the early spring when the weather was ideal to work outside. Ian says he enjoyed drawing the mechanical shapes, tones and textures of old cars and lorries complimented by the rebirth of nettles, brambles and grasses. He found the scene rather poignant and visited the site regularly over several months working mostly in sketchbooks. These sketchbooks were part of the exhibition Ian Hay:A Life Drawing at the Minories in 2010, because, according to the artist, it was important “to give an idea of the artistic process.” Ian then developed the material into larger drawings back in his studio, a working practice he has adopted for most of his life. The result of which is a surprisingly graceful portrait of a magnificent, if imposing, subject.
Into Tate Modern: The Weather Project
In 2003 Tate Modern displayed in the Turbine Hall an extraordinary installation entitled The Weather Projectby the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson (b.1967). The Project consisted of a fake sun (yellow lights behind a huge semi-circular screen below a mirrored ceiling) and pumped-in mist. The project was a huge success, with winter crowds of visitors laying on the floor and gazing up, basking in the artificial sun and fog. This was a major event which, like many other people, Ian went to see. There he was entranced by the creative light effects that illuminated the huge ground floor gallery - sometimes a sunrise, sometimes a sunset. According to him the event was “like walking into a 3 - dimensional Turner painting: a truly inspiring experience”. He visited the gallery a number of times and made drawings and colour notes from which, back in his studio, he developed an A1 work on black paper using charcoal and pastel which he completed in 2004.
1980’s Sandford Gallery, Covent Garden, regular shows
Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions
1990 to 2009, Haylett Gallery, Maldon, regular shows including:
1990, Ian Hay ARCA, Home and Abroad
1993, Ian Hay ARCA, Time and Place
2009, Recent oils, watercolours and drawings by Michael Smee and Ian Hay ARCA
1990 to the present day, The Robert Digby Gallery at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester regular shows including:
2013, A Mile From the Mercury
1997 Highgate Fine Art, London, Recent Pastels by Ian Hay ARCA
2010, The Minories, Colchester, Ian Hay: A Life Drawing (major retrospective with selected works from 1955 to 2010)
The Phoenix Art Gallery, Lavenham
Patisserie Valerie, London SW3, two persons show
Geedon Gallery, Fingeringhoe, regular mixed exhibitions
Many other exhibitions in Wivenhoe, Dedham and all over East Anglia
Works in Private and Public Collections
Wilshire Gallery, Beverley Hill, Los Angeles, USA
Birmingham Head Offices (commissioned by Ernst and Young Accountants) The Changing Face of Birmingham
Colchester Borough Council
County Hall, Chelmsford
Doncaster City Art Gallery
Guildhall Art Gallery, London
The Royal College of Art collection, London, Transcription, 1964
Sheffield City Art Gallery
The Tate and Lyle Sugar Company, Woolwich
The University of Essex
Drawing Architecture: The Development of Drawing Media, Flatford Field Centre, East Bergholt
The Making of Pastels and their applications, Colchester Institute
Approaches to the Life Figure, Plume School, Maldon
Watercolour and Mixed Media, Broadlands Art Centre, Norfolk
BUCKMAN, David, Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol, 1998, p. 555
VENUE Magazine – Arts in the East, summer issue 2014, No Follower of Fashion, article written by Rod Shone, pp. 22-23
(1) Ian especially enjoys teaching to Art and Design students objective drawing, which, for him, forms the basis of all visual communication. Sketching to him is essential in providing references for the content of paintings and should be encouraged.
(2) VENUE Magazine – Arts in the East, summer issue 2014, ”No Follower of Fashion”, article written by Rod Shone, p. 23