Greg McGee on Jeffrey Spedding: Art featured in Dream Catcher Poetry Magazine

By Greg McGee

Greg McGee on Jeffrey Spedding: Art featured in Dream Catcher Poetry Magazine

Gallery director Greg McGee is honoured to serve as Art Director for international poetry-zine, 'Dream Catcher'. This issue we look at the art of the much missed Jeffery Spedding, who sadly died in 2019. Check 'Dream Catcher' out: - you can subscribe therein.


Surrounded in childhood by Classical Composer portraits and discussions of Constable, the first Christmas of Jeffrey Spedding's teenage years came accompanied with an oil painting set. The gift fell on fertile ground and the young Jeffrey soon harnessed oil paint's glossy viscosity. It must have been no small achievement for a teenager in the 1950s for with considerable rigour and alacrity Jeffrey Spedding studied at Wimbledon School of Art after leaving school, taught at Swansea Institute of Higher Education, and progressed upwards in all things pedagogical until he held the position of Associate Dean of School of the Arts at Northampton University. 


All this time, and beyond, like all artists should, Jeffery painted every day. It is this striving for personal excellence in his chosen genre that sets Spedding’s personal oeuvre aside. It is the eventual blossoming of his chosen tools that inculcate a yearning for pure visual attainment: the interfusion of oil, acrylic, emulsion is no accident, nor is it a short cut into mere painterly energy. Spedding saw in the world around him a relentless barrage of formal relationships that he was compelled to catch, like lightening in a bottle, and if it meant painting every day, teasing the tensions between dry and matt water based paint and the ooze of oil (try it!), skewering the shifting shapes of nature with careful photography for subsequent transitions into mixed media painting, then so be it. What Jeffery Spedding called called ‘Compositional Activity’ became a priority, and his output increased as he perfected his technique.


It was classical music that helped kickstart a thirteen year old Jeffery’s confidence in painting, and it was classical music that continued to provide the conceptual structure of his maverick approach. He was aware of how Rembrandt and Turner saw similar synergies between melody and painting – that a composer’s material is best when it blossoms – and how a painter can develop the depiction and descriptive stage to engender a radical and previously unimagined quality, that which I can only describe as a quickening, or the pulse of a painting. Jefferey Spedding must have gained great satisfaction in seeing his art attain similar, transformative power.


He continued to nurture the symbiosis of Classical Music and his individual Compositional Activity. His art became highly regarded, and was exhibited in London’s Royal Festival Hall, Cardiff’s St David’s Hall, Cork Street’s Richmond Gallery, amongst others. Permanent displays in public venues popped up all the UK, with Edward Greenfield, chief music critic of The Guardian, championing his art and becoming an avid collector.


In terms of compositions, his subject matter moved increasingly towards the landscape of the UK and France. His creative existence with author Sally Spedding was obviously idyllic and contibuted to his progressive practice: “We built a bolt hole in the Pyrénées-Orientales. I am particularly interested in uninhabited fields with trees. My main influence here is the music of Debussy, and his use of open, whole tones. My painting as a result, has become more concerned with the fleeting movement of blocks or passages of form rather than more focused elements.” It is here that as avid followers of painting we witness Spedding enter a crucial phase of depicting the world around him with unique, energetic mark making, bringing it to life with idiosyncratic flair.


Sadly, the suddenness of death plays a part in this story. Jeff Spedding died suddenly, like his Dad who bought him his oil paint set all those years ago, from a ruptured aorta, in February 2019. He is survived by his wife Sally. His painting, in its bristling restlessness, continues to bring balm and boosted spirits to all who have their lives enhanced by Art, Music, and indeed Poetry. 


Greg McGee, Summer 2020


Image: Benjamin Britten by Jeffrey Spedding