Can you tell what it is yet? Rolf Harris to make a flying visitBy Phil Creighton
May 05, 2010
Forget Neighbours, Australia’s most famous export is coming to the Thames Valley on Saturday and he can’t wait.
Rolf Harris, the king of the quick draw, will be making a flying visit to The Lemongrove Gallery to launch a new exhibition featuring some of his latest work – and he can’t wait.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” he promises.
The display features a mixture of original Rolf paintings alongside some high quality prints, “some on canvas, some on paper” he promises.
“It’s just a joyful variation of everything that I do,” he continues. “There’s some originals in there, but quite a few have sold in recent months.”
To celebrate the launch of his team-up with the gallery, which is in Minster Street, Reading, Rolf has been taking part in a tour of the country to meet fans. The events have been so popular that organisers have had to issue invitations, lest he be swamped with well-wishers and on Saturday he’ll spend the morning in Kingston-upon-Thames before heading over to Reading in the afternoon.
He’s looking forward to it, as he loves meeting his many fans from across 50 years in showbiz.
“It gives me tremendous pleasure and it’s absolutely amazing,” he says of the reaction. “At Chester a couple of weeks back, it ran an hour over time. We were just overwhelmed by the numbers and we couldn’t believe how many people came along.”
Although Rolf has been known as a light-entertainment star, singing Jake The Peg and playing the wobbleboard to much adoration, he has always been an artist.
He came to the UK in 1952 to study at City & Guilds Art School, intending to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather as a portrait painter.
“But life took a strange twist and I needed to make some money,” he recalls. “The entertainment took over.
I managed to get on children’s TV, doing some cartoon drawing then I started doing big paintings.
“They were based on impressionist paintings taught to me by Hayward Veal [an Australian artist]. He took me under my wind and became my mentor.”
Today, he says that his paintings follow the same style but just on a smaller scale.
Rolf, who made a career out of encouraging children to draw cartoon characters while performing hits on the stylophone and the wobbleboard, got back in to art almost accidentally.
“I think” – he corrects himself – “I know it was because of the Rolf on Art programmes.
“I found very early on [when making the shows] I really loved painting and wondered why I hadn’t done this for so long. ‘Why has it taken a backseat?’”
And so Rolf set up a studio at home, first in a car port and then in a new purpose built studio.
The morning that we chat, he was up at 6am so he could paint in it.
“I got dressed, grabbed a coffee and got up there,” he says. He makes it sound so simple.
Oils are Rolf’s preferred medium – “if you make mistakes, when it’s dry, you can paint over it,” he tells me.
And he’s also snap happy, taking photographs wherever he goes to give him inspiration for his art.
He’s just back from a trip to Venice.
“I couldn’t enthuse about painting there,” he says, revealing that it’s been the photographs he took that have sparked his muse.
As we sign off, Rolf reveals that he’s about to do Glastonbury, Womad and Bestival, but he harbours another stage: Reading festival.
“I’d love to, yeah,” he says, chuckling at the thought of performing on the same bill as Blink 182 and Arcade Fire.
- Rolf will be at the Lemongrove Gallery on Saturday from 4pm. Invitations are available from (0118) 959 0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on the show, log on to www.thelemongrovegallery.co.uk.
Rolf’s website is www.rolfharris.com.