Our new Professor of Painting introduces himself! Meet John Devane…

The RBSA has a new Professor of Painting… John Devane shares his thoughts on the contemporary art scene, the current status of painting, and his plans for the future.

“Painting has always been my passion and I have endeavoured to explore a range of different approaches to making pictures in this ‘digital age’.”

It is a great privilege to be appointed as Professor of Painting at the RBSA.

I studied painting at the Royal College of Art in the late seventies and worked briefly as a war artist in Cyprus. Although I have always maintained my practice alongside a background in art education, research and exhibition commitments, the balance of these activities has on occasions been difficult to maintain.

For many years I was employed on a part-time or guest lecturer basis at a number of UK art schools (including Falmouth, BCU, Cheltenham, Northumbria, University of Reading, North Staffs Poly amongst others) but in recent years have spent much of my time at Coventry University and was Head of Department of Design & Visual Arts for ten years before becoming Acting Head of School in 2015.

In 2017 I retired from this position to concentrate on painting and related research activities full time.

Painting has always been my passion and I have endeavoured to explore a range of different approaches to making pictures in this ‘digital age’. Although portraiture has always been an ongoing concern and I have had some exposure through the BP Portrait Award it is representational painting more generally that continues to fascinate me.

As an art student in Liverpool and then in London, I was acutely aware of the ongoing malaise about the value of painting in a world saturated with photography and the moving image. I remember a former tutor of mine declaring that painting was effectively dead after Frank Stella’s stripe paintings emerged on the scene. Well I guess he was wrong! Another tutor said that you had to be fairly ‘hard boiled’ to be a painter and I guess he might have been right.

One thing is sure, it doesn’t get any easier – but maybe that’s part of the challenge. I’m currently working towards a solo show in London in the autumn and I have a sneaking feeling that the paint will still be wet when the pictures are loaded into the van. Notwithstanding, I am looking forward to playing an active role in the life of the RBSA in the months and years ahead.

John Devane is giving his inaugural lecture at the RBSA Gallery on October 11. Tickets can be booked at the RBSA website or by calling 0121 236 4353.


John Devane

John Devane is a figurative painter and printmaker who has exhibited widely since graduating from the Royal College of Art. He was an exhibitor and a finalist in the BP Portrait Award, has been featured in the Garrick Milne Prize for Painting, and has work in a number of private and public collections – including the Imperial War Museum.

A version of this article appeared in the RBSA Newsletter, edited by John Davenport, and is reproduced here with thanks.

Images courtesy of The Coventry Telegraph.

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