Blues in all colours

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The Independent Online
Many contemporary artists are anxious that their work should not be viewed as esoteric and enjoy the appreciation of the amateur just as much as praise from the professional.

John Bull, one of Britain's leading jazz painters, was drawn to his subject because he found the world of jazz so democratic - unlike the world of art.

A former graphic designer he took up painting seven years ago at the age of 40 and his striking images of jazz heroes set in seedy smokey backgrounds have won him a wide range of fans.

His laid-back approach appeals to the novice collector and the jazz enthusiast as much as it does to the art lover. "There is a sort of mystique about the work but there is no deep hidden meaning. I would love someone to explain my paintings to me," he says with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

"I didn't realise how rigid the art world was until I started painting and reading the critics. There are very strong divisions in attitude. You don't find that in jazz. If someone likes what I do it's great. If they hate it that's all right too. It's so good to have a straightforward reaction. One of the reasons I left graphic design was because just about the most positive thing a client would say is: `I have no problem with that'."

Bull, who paints in oils on wood and canvas, composes his nocturnal jazz scenes in a studio overlooking a beautiful Wiltshire valley - and keeps the curtains closed while he is working.

His latest exhibition at Gallery 27 in Cork Street, London, opens on April 7th and includes some 50 paintings and drawings of jazz characters including Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Chet Baker and Thelonius Monk. Prices range from pounds 500 for a drawing to around pounds 2,000 for a painting.

The Contemporary Print Show, which opens at London's Barbican Centre on April 18th offers the best of a specialist art fair and a long running exhibition taking in more than 700 prints by 200 artists.

Some 20 galleries will exhibit work including the Alan Cristea Gallery which has a now digital ink jet print by David Hockney and CCA Galleries who will be showcasing a selection of artists including Annora Spence, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Terry Frost, Philip Spare and Libby January.

Admission is free and there is ample opportunity to browse among the engravings, etchings, lithographs and screen prints which represent a variety of both abstract and conceptual work. There should be something for everyone at this exhibition which runs until May 10th and prices appropriately range from pounds 50 to pounds 5,000.