Sport Almanack: It's official - Brian Moore is no oil painting

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THE fine art of figurative painting is not generally associated with rugby union. But Gareth Lloyd Ball, who trained, appropriately, at Bath Academy of Art, is determined to put that right. 'I'm interested in figures in the landscape,' says the artist, 'and rugby really fulfils that. Cricket is just people standing isolated from each other, but in rugby the figures are almost abstracted - knotted and difficult to decipher.' He is welcomed by his subjects: 'There are very few artists in the rugby fraternity. The players are curious about me, and of course I'm interested in meeting figures at the top of the sporting tree.'

Gareth, whose portrait of Brian Moore was exhibited by the Institute of British Watercolourists, was born in Llanelli and played the game while a student in Bath. Now, though, he runs the lines in search of an interesting pose or conjunction of bodies. 'Some people call them arsehole paintings,' he reflects, 'but that's all you see on the touchline.'

Gareth, 47, from Farnham, in Surrey, is keen to point out that he is interested in painting subjects outside the game of rugby: he is just back from a stay at the British School in Rome, where he painted in the House of the Vestal Virgins. Even in Italy, though, he was not free from rugby's inspiration: the figures of the victims of Pompeii reminded him of rugby players 'in the way they crouched on the ground'. Gareth's ultimate ambition is to combine rugby and ballet. 'I'd love to stage an exhibition of rugby paintings and paintings of the Royal Ballet,' he says. 'The similarity between rugby and ballet is quite irresistible.'

(Photograph omitted)