North East artist turning dereliction in beauty

31st March 2016

It was in 2014 that Tory Peer Lord Howell ruffled the feathers of many people up and down the UK by labelling the north of England as "derelict" in justifying the rolling out of fracking.

While there was plenty of condemnation for his comments, there is little doubting that the north, particularly the North East, has seen a dramatic decline in various industries, leaving a legacy of a abandoned buildings that punctuate the landscape.

But while relics of the region's industrial past may be seen as an unwelcome eyesore for many, local artist Paul Stangroom views them as a viewfinder in which to appreciate the region's natural beauty.

Stangroom has spent much of his career painting sweeping landscapes of rural Northumberland and County Durham from the point of view of looking through the windows of abandoned farm cottages and shepherd huts.

The works have made him hugely popular with locals, meaning it is perhaps no surprise to see him use a derelict building as a backdrop for exhibiting his work.

The old laundrette on Front Street, Prudhoe is a building that would tell a story if the walls could speak.

Now it has been transformed into the Paul Stangroom Fine Art Gallery, new life has been breathed into the historic venue. 

Stangroom told local newspaper, the Newcastle Chronicle: “It has been a lifetime’s ambition to have my own place and I’ve been renovating this place for the last 18 months/.

“I’ll be working and also teaching in the gallery and living above the shop. The idea was to bring everything under one roof.”

Breathing new life into the North East

Paul, who grew up in Washington, Tyne & Wear, is the son of another talented artist and illustrator, Lawrie Stangroom.

Growing up, Stangroom witnessed many of the older homes in the village demolished to make way for what was to later become Washington.

But while he accepted the changes were in the name of progress, there was always a feeling that something was being lost forever.

The irony of turning an otherwise dilapidated building into something modern and attractive has not been lost on the artist.

“After 12 years of painting ruined cottages and farmsteads, I’ve come in a full circle,” he said.

“The old laundrette was almost as derelict as the buildings I paint... but I’ve been delighted at how welcoming people have been."

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