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Small Things Celebrate Artist at Whitworth Gallery

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The life and work of Leeds-born Joash Woodrow, an eccentric and reclusive artist who died in Manchester in 2006, aged 78, and who is now regarded as being one of the most significant British artists of the late-20th century, is being celebrated in a specially devised piece of theatre by Manchester-based theatre company Small Things at the city’s prestigious Whitworth Art Gallery in October.

Joash spent much of his adult life living alone in Leeds and moved to Manchester in 2000 to spend the final years of his life in sheltered accommodation closer to his brother, who had moved across the Pennines some years previously. The family knew of his interest in art - Joash won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1950 - but when his quiet and anonymous semi-detached home in a suburb of Leeds was being emptied after he moved, his family discovered, to great astonishment, a hitherto undiscovered treasure trove of over 700 paintings, 3000 drawings, and hundreds of books.

Part of his collection, six volumes of an engraved history of Victorian art, complete with a series of Picasso-style illustrations, drawings, and collages, found its way into a second-hand bookshop in Harrogate, and upon being discovered by the painter Christopher P Wood, Joash was instantly celebrated as one of the art world’s great unknown talents, whose work has since been mounted in major exhibitions in Leeds, Manchester, London, and at the Royal College of Art itself. Today, much of his work can be seen (by appointment) at the 108 Fine Art Gallery in Harrogate.

The Resonance of Seclusion by Manchester-based theatre company Small Things is inspired by the life and work of this most enigmatic and fascinating person, whose unstoppable drive to create, and the equally unstoppable support of his family, helped make his artistic life a reality. It is a touching story of amazing discoveries, journeys that we take and last a lifetime, and of brothers quietly growing old together.

Small Things are from Manchester where they make theatre. Their work focuses upon creating inventive and innovative performances and creative experiences with professional and non-professional performers and artists, telling stories that reflect the world around us and help us understand it better.

The Creative Team is made up of Liz Postlethwaite (Library Theatre Company, norfox); Lara Booth (Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre, Royal Northern College of Music, norfox); and Lowri Evan (Eggs Collective, Shot in the Dark, norfox).

The Resonance of Seclusion stars Ben Moores (Shot in the Dark, Just Add Water, norfox), Tom Barry (Shot in the Dark, Just Add Water) and Niven Garner (Shot in the Dark, Penultimate). The play  has been made possible through the support of Arts Council England, The Whitworth Art Galley, Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre, and The Library Theatre Company.

The piece runs at the Whitworth Art Gallery from 5 - 6 October.


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