LIAM Spencer finds beauty in what others might consider bland, from rainy motorways and chip shops to petrol stations and cafes.
In his hands, a drab and dreary urban scene on a wet and miserable day is transformed into a beautiful piece of art in just a few brush strokes.
The Burnley-born artist is renowned for his ability to make the most unimaginative of scenes come to life in oil and watercolour.
And later this month art lovers have a unique opportunity to see Liam’s new works alongside some of the nation’s rarest pieces by Adolphe Valette, who famously taught L.S. Lowry, at the Manchester School of Art.
The exhibition will showcase the largest collection of Valette pieces ever for sale to the public, with 24 in total including one of the oldest Valette oils in circulation, dated 1908.
At the exhibition at Clark Art in Hale, Cheshire, which opens on Thursday, Liam — described at a modern day Lowry — will present 51 new pieces of art, created over the last six months. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw,” said Liam, who grew up in Granville Street, Burnley. “Basically I just carried on a childhood hobby on to higher education and it went from there.
“I think I was always quite good at drawing. But at college I didn’t feel like a high flyer, I’ve just been persistent,” he said modestly.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity to exhibit alongside Valette, someone who has inspired me over the years. We’ve painted quite a lot of the same scenes so it’ll be nice to see them side by side.”
Bill Clark, owner of Clark Art, hosting the exhibition, said: “This is one of the most exciting exhibitions we’ve ever held at the gallery. It will feature the work of two of the greatest Northern artists. Although Valette and Spencer were born 88 years apart, there are similarities in their painting styles and subject matter. Spencer is one of the most important northern artists of his generation. The two artists complement each other beautifully and the exhibition will be a unique opportunity to see and purchase work never previously displayed.”
At 47, Liam is one of the youngest artists ever to have a retrospective exhibition at Manchester City Art Gallery (in 2006) and they have his work on permanent display.
He first came to prominence in 2000 with an exhibition at the Lowry Centre and in the last 11 years he has had regular sell out shows and built up a loyal following amongst collectors.
“I try to paint most days,” Liam explained. “I’ll set up where ever I see something I want to capture. But I don’t like being watched, it makes me freeze, so I try and be as discreet as possible.
“I don’t think there’s anywhere in the area that I haven’t painted.”
After moving to Manchester to study art at Manchester’s Polytechnic and making the city his home, Liam’s work became centred around the city and neighbouring Salford.
Next week’s exhibition will feature his work from across the UK and abroad with a main focus on Manchester and scenes from his native Lancashire, Liam’s favourite being a painting of a night game at his beloved Turf Moor, the home of Burnley Football Club.
One of his paintings of the ground was presented to former Burnley defender Graham Alexander as the veteran player reached his 1,000th professional appearance earlier this year.
The former Burnley College student recently moved back to East Lancashire to set up a studio in Rossendale.
“Now that I’m back in Lancashire I’ve painted a lot more of the local area,” said Liam, who lives in Waterfoot with his wife and two children. “I like popping around Rossendale and capturing the scenery. It doesn’t have to be something obviously beautiful, it can often be fairly mundane like the main road through Rawtenstall but one day it’ll look great because it’s foggy or very sunny. Things I think look interesting might surprise people, I see colour and light and I just have to get it down on paper.”
• The art exhibition opens at Clark Art in Hale, Cheshire on Thursday and runs until November 19. Visit www.art-clark.co.uk.