Ron Sims was a painter, printmaker, sculptor, teacher and writer, born in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, in 1944. After two years on a foundation course at Colchester School of Art, followed by a two year course leading to a National Diploma in Design (NDD) (1961-1965), Sims went to Manchester College of Art where he went on a one year postgraduate course (1965-1966). Then he went on a three year postgraduate course at the Royal Academy Schools in London (1967-1970). In 1970 he obtained a Teaching Fellowship at Gloucester College of Art and then for more than 40 years Sims had a very active and varied career, including teaching at the Plume School in Maldon for many years. After his retirement he also taught printmaking and sculpture in various adult education centres and at print workshops, including one at John Doubleday’s studio in Great Totham, Essex. During all these years he exhibited in many places including the Mall Gallery, London, and the Royal Academy Summer exhibitions (see below) and wrote for magazines, participated in book publications, film and radio programmes (1) and carried out private and public commissions (2). He has works in private and public collections in the UK and abroad (see below).
Sims was a member of several arts organisations, often playing an active role. These included the Printmakers Council; the Art Workers Guild; The Digby Gallery at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester (selection panel); Gainsborough’s House Print workshop, Sudbury, Suffolk (committee); 2D3D; 12 PM Printmakers and the Royal Academy Schools’ Alumni council.
He was a member of Colchester Art Society and chairman of its selection panel before being elected President of the Society in 2013.
Ron Sims’ work is mainly of abstract and of an architectural character. Sims was a great admirer of the work of Georges Vantongerloo (1886-1965), a Belgian cubist and sculptor, founder in 1931 of the Abstraction-Creation group of artists which included Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Sims was also an admirer of Frank Gehry (b.1929), the architect of the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in Bilbao, Spain and in his early days explored Pop art, Op art and Colour Field painting. These art movements, which dated from the 1950s, 1960s, included artists such as Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley and Mark Rothko. The work of these artists, which eliminated both emotional and religious content, led Sims to develop his own highly personal and gestural application by creating hard-edged graphic works, characterised by clearly defined shapes and forms with apparent simplicity. His subjects are mainly of human or animal nature but also include objects, celestial bodies and double images.
His use of acrylic paint allowed him to overpaint and adjust line, shape, edge and tonal colour, and to turn soft imagery into rigid block representations. His architectural fantasies, which are constructed from familiar building materials of steel, stone or painted aluminium, are, like his paintings, the result of a visual and imaginative exploration of the human condition.
Sims’ work, sophisticated in its visual language, is both rooted in the past and leading to the future. In his own words his designs explore “inward and outward living forms with a hard-edge geometrical depiction” (3). They also have some ambiguity and often contain historical references, literal associations or visual puns, as is the case here, where the title and the image have a humorous connection.
Art Workers Guild, Bloomsbury, London, 2012
East Anglian Artists, Ipswich, 1980
Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend, 1989, 1992, 1996, 2000
Chappel Galleries, 1996, 2001, 2010
Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibitions, 1972-1975, 1999, 2009-13
Chelmsford and Essex Museums, 1976, 1978, 1986
Colchester Art Society, 1973
Corn Exchange, Saffron Walden, proposed by Edward Bawden, 1979
Digby Gallery, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, 1992, 1995, 2009
Firstsite, Colchester, 1998-9, 2000
Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, 1985, 2000
Geedon Gallery, Fingeringhoe, 2011
Hayletts Gallery, Maldon, 2011
Hayward Gallery, London (prize winner), 1969
Mall Galleries, 2010, 2011, 2012
The Minories, Colchester, 1973, 2000, 2013
Works in Private and Public Collections
In the UK including at the Greater London Council and Ipswich and Colchester Museums
In Austria, Germany and the USA
(1) Ron was involved in a number of publications including Buckman’s British Artists since 1945, programs on Anglia Television including a slot onFocus with presenter Jane Probyn, and radio programmes on BBC Essex Radio (Oliver Rogers’ Three Town Trail).
(2) When a student he received a number of commissions, including one by the Russian Orthodox Church in Manchester to produce altar pieces.
(3) Ron Sims - Visual Genetics, Human and Animal, The Minories, Colchester, 2013, exhibition catalogue, p.7