1935 John was born in Sheffield, England, on February 3rd. A natural predisposition for painting was obvious at a very early age. At the age of five, one of his paintings was selected and exhibited at Burlington House, London. The influence is evident in his early work of the romantic landscape of hillsides and lakes of Derbyshire where he grew up in the village of Loxley, which, according to legend, was once part of the Forest of Sherwood. He attended school in Glasgow and later, in Elstree, London where visits to the local film studios fired his imagination.1944 He attended the junior department of the Sheffield College of Arts. 1951 He attended the Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts where he was greatly influenced by the former Prix de Rome scholar, Eric Jones, his tutor, for years, who gave him his passion for Italian art. He exhibited in group shows such as “Northern Young Artists”, where one of his paintings was purchased by the famous Manchester artist, L.S. Lowry.
He visited France with fellow students and extensively studied great European art. 1956 He was awarded a Degree in Fine Art and left for Italy. He lived and worked in a variety of jobs in Ventimiglia, Menton and the south of France. He began teaching painting in outdoor classes during the summers in central Italy. He succeeded in earning a livelihood from his art and began exhibiting successfully in important group shows in Italy alongside artists of national and international standing and earned high praise an recognition. 1957 He taught at summer classes and exhibited at group shows in Ancona and the surrounding area. He held his first one-man show at Macerata in Italy which attracted a great consensus of local critics. 1958 He continued teaching summer classes and held in second show in Macerata.
1960 He held a one-man show at the Gallery Antares, Rome. The important Roman critic Michele Biancale wrote: Corbidge, who has painted during extensive travels, has succeeded in elevating his art in such a dignified way as to give it the appearance of a blend of recent aesthetic trends seen through a filter. His art could be called abstract if there wasn’t this persistent naturalistic sub-stratum betraying reality’s presence. A reality which is in this case vividly portrayed and enriched by a deep vein of poetry. This is very apparent in his use of color, which reveals the various moods of the artist. His work is impregnated with a sort of insistent realism which is in direct contrast to one’s first impression. The diversity of the combination of colors and compositions reveal Corbidge’s great agility and freedom, obviously the result of that rare gift, an inner world full of poetic instinct.He went again to Cyprus to work for a show at the Chemerinsky Gallery, Tel-Aviv. He held a further one at the Comedy Gallery, London. The world famous critic Eric Newton wrote in “The Guardian” amongst other things: not often does an artist who is both unfamiliar and personal strike one as brilliant at the first sight. But the wind that stirs the trees and tumbles the clouds all over Corbidge’s skies, the heaving restless movements of mountains, the sense of growth and turbulence, all these are what make brilliant the right word for his paintings. They have an enchanting freshness and exuberance that comes very near to the happiest of Kokoschka’s landscapes. He was invited by the then curator of the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia, the late Porphyrios Dikaios, to stage retrospective show of his work to date. For the first time the Cypriot public came into contact with personal form of abstract impressionism.
1961 Still in Cyprus, he was invited to stage at the Gallery Harmouche, Beirut. He also executed mosaics and bas-reliefs in Limassol and held a one-man show at Limassol Town Hall. 1962 He held a further show in Limassol Town Hall, then at Larnaca, at Famagusta and at the Gh. S. Apophasis Gallery in Nicosia. He also held a second one-man show at the Comedy Gallery, London. He travelled in Europe. Following his one-man show exhibition at the Drian Galleris, London, art critic Bettina Wadia wrote in “The Arts Review”: Flight, the isolated episode that is also the concentration of past and present, movement arrested be the brushstroke the also points to future displacement, figures in a landscape that is also an abstraction – Corbidge’s recent paintings all of these. They are the painter’s equivalent of Fellini’s shuttling, superimposed images or Durrell’s tangents of time off the single circle of drama. Each painting has its own tempo. So much painting has been reduced to interesting technical experiments in pure form and color. Corbidge is obviously capable of turning out the same kind of thing, but in changing from a the romantic, lyrical abstraction of two years ago to the human figure se in the landscape of abstraction, his painting has become a profound comment on human experience; As the only representational elements, the figures are distinct, but in color and adumbrated form they are completely involved in the setting. Isolated and yet strangely related to one another, the give a haunting emotional quality to these paintings.church
silhouet 1964 He lived for a while in London but nostalgia for the Mediterranean was overwhelming. The famous Greek poet Nikos Kavvadias wrote an essay on Corbidge in the “Tahidromos” magazine, a very rare journalistic exception for this very private poet. Children’s eyes can only see images and even those are upside down. The young can see, up to a point, but without discrimination. As people season they begin to see both within and without. The old can pierce the darkness. When this middle-aged seaman wants to reach to somewhere beyond his vision he closes his eyes for a while and then re-opens them. In this way people, animals and landscapes can be distinguished. Some are files away, some are hung on the wall and others are just left on the floor. This does no harm. There is nowhere like Famagusta. There is nowhere else in the world where one can face the sea, that particular sea which meets the dark sandy shore and, while suffering, endures and is enhanced with passion and insolence.
How many eyes have I encountered? I remember them for they belong to the women of a Cyprus long past. These eyes do not fade for they are the eyes of the statues. Limassol is an amiable place, Karavostasi is fierce, Kyrenia sleepless, and Paphos drowsy. The road with the casuarinas leads to Troodos and surrenders to the pine covered mountain slopes. Here stands the house built by Rimbaud which reminds me of the one that Stevenson repaired under the canes of Samoa. Last winter I was struck by a huge fresco hung on the wall of our shipping agent in Limassol. It transposed my way of seeing. Few of the waiting passengers seemed to notice it, fortunately for me, it hung way above their heads. Here, on an inconceivable scale, co-exist the birth of a journey, youth and I almost said death, but a journey has no death or old age, an can colors be inconceivable ? I could perceive in it the most of the least and I was required to add or subtract. To copy is a sin and can only be tolerated in High School. I looked again at the mural, what was missing, that which was unnecessary was hidden by the passengers who had landed from the ship “Taxiarchis” and were waiting to sail on to Australia. Their many-colored bags were crammed with hardtack. “The sailors mother was baking hardtack for her son”. « There is more inside,” said our agent, “Go and take a look”. And there in the next room was the beginning of all this. A landscape which could be interpreted without difficulty as a Neapolitan litany like those you see in the streets leading up to Vomero. It was then that I recognized the origin of the painter, not his nationality which is of little consequence.
I met the artist himself during my next visit to Cyprus. He scaled rather than climbed the ship’s ladder like a sailor, slightly annoyed that the ladder was not a rope. John Corbidge, Yannis as we now call him, born in Sheffield 28 years ago. He studied in England and Italy and began as a neo-realist by helping form the “Northern Young Artists” group. His work has already travelled to Italy, Canada, Japan, Israel and to the USA, where it has been greeted with enthusiasm be the critics Biancale and Eric Newton.
He speaks four languages including the Cypriot dialect which he speaks so well the he can easily be mistaken for a native. His first question to me at our first meeting was, “Do you know Seferis?” In his studio you will find Solomos next to Cavafis and books of the world’s poets. The eyes of Cyprus lead him on to travel to other seas. The exiled eyes of Katerina Cornaro, untouched even beyond death, they are both proud and sad just as old Titian bequeathed them to us. .
Every time the ship docks in Limassol Port he comes, bringing something with him and taking something away. The something I can only call poetry. I had forgotten that it could exist with such intensity. So much so that, when I write these lines, my pen becomes as heavy as cast-iron in my hand. (Realization that death is near). His great wish? To come to Athens during the winter and exhibit his work and then to stay on for good. To get to know, face to face, those people he has always felt he loved. Like in the Persian myths I always believed that distance was difficult to overcome, but I was wrong. Sheffield is near Matadi and Fikardou next to Munden. Art is without boundaries.
John in Trieste1965 He settled in Athens and became passionately involved in all things Greek, music, poetry, folklore and the past. He was especially enamored and inspired by the Cycladic Islands. He staged a one-man show at the Astor Gallery in Athens. 1967 He held another on-man show at the Astor Gallery in Athens and at the Hilton in Nicosia. Other work included theatre design for an American repertory company and murals in Athens and Milan. 1968 After a show at the British Council in Athens and following the advent of the Greek Military Junta, he returned to Cyprus. 1969 After a one-man show at the Hilton, Nicosia, he decided to settle permanently in Cyprus. He visited USA, particularly New York and Arizona, visiting all the major art museums. 1970 By settling in Bellapais, near Kyrenia, he finally achieved ideal conditions to develop his work and vision in its idyllic setting. The following two years were to be very important regarding the artistic direction he was to take. He staged a one-man show at the Argo Gallery, Nicosia and thereafter took part in all major Pancyprian group shows. He visited Greece and travelled throughout Italy. 1972 He held a one-man show at Gallery One in Beirut. 1973 He had a one-man show at the Argo Gallery, Nicosia.
1974 He lost his home and studio in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. At the time he was working on a mural in Italy and there made the difficult decision to stay on with his Cypriot wife, Andri, and three children. Here began the great cycle entitled “Bitter Sun”, dedicated to the Cyprus tragedy and on which he was to work for several years to come.
He staged a large display of his work depicting the Cyprus tragedy at the “Remember Cyprus” exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London. He held the first of many one-man shows in Italy, accompanied be slide shows and lectures on what befell the island in order to inform the public of the real situation. He became the “art ambassador” of Cyprus to Italy throughout this period. Characteristically, in an introduction to these exhibitions, he commented: My images constitute a co-existence of things and events which lay, then as now, before too many humble homes in the Middle East, as in other areas of conflict, and which become particularly eloquent when an ancient civilization is threatened with extinction. What constituted, in a small and highly concentrated area, the culture of nearly 8000 years, faced a major risk from the cruelty of war and the folly of man. Living through this meant much more to me than being tuned in to the latest fashion in the art world. A page of history, of our history, a valuable inheritance, was being torn to pieces. I gave the silent anger of testimony to all this through the dark, speech-killing eyes of those people and through the statues and other elements of their culture and everyday existence. My intention is to continue this message through the use of all the pictorial means and innovations a t my command. It should be clear that alongside the joy for sensual living, the “solidarity” that these paintings express, there is always the implication that this joy is only too fragile and too soon, or too cruelly, may be torn from our grasp. Human civilization as a whole is at the stake and not only that of a people of a small island. I imply future danger, not only the flavor of past events. I feel that only when you have lived intensely the particular can you reach through towards the universal – from the microcosm to the macrocosm, which, under the “magnifying glass” are, in fact, really identical. He held a one-man show at the Galleria Tribbio in Trieste where he and his family had settled. He rapidly became one of the best-known artists of the region.
1975 “Bitter Sun” exhibitions were staged at Omegna and at the famous « Quagglino Gallery » in Turin. Shows and lectures on the same theme followed in Macerata. He travelled to the Sultanate of Oman which resulted in a series of exhibitions based on this experience. 1976 to 1980 Important one-man shows with the Cyprus tragedy at their heart which, in addition to their artistic merit, focused the attention of the Italian public on this problem, mere held at many cities too numerous to list, but including: Venice, Bologna, Cento, Conegliano, Bolzano, Taormina, Merano, Udine, and Trieste.
During this period Corbidge frescoed the church of San Luigi in Trieste and created stained glass for another. One-man shows were held at Zygos Gallery in Limassol ant at Gloria’s Gallery in Nicosia. 1981 He had a one-man show at the Argo Gallery in Athens. Another show was held at the Tribbio Gallery in Trieste. Leading critic Sergio Molesi prefaced the catalogue.
1982 This year, he held a one-man show at the Panselinos Gallery in Salonika, Greece and another at Gloria’s Gallery in Nicosia. Painter and critic Glyn Hughes commented: this is Corbidge’s best show here since his triumphant sixties museum one note the period, 1960, when there was a lot of real painting going on all over the island, Greek, Turk and the “Born Outsider”. This show is even better because he has hurdled the abstract-figurative gap of the era. This show has all the benefits of European movements of this century, with a thorough knowledge of the Renaissance. It’s grand mainstream. It also refers to an earlier decade here. Bas Relief A time when John’s work gave to so many of us the extra confidence to go on painting. The painter‘s coming into his own. In Cypriot art it is the Renaissance of the “Early Middle Aged”.
He staged a further on-man show at the Galleria Tribbio, Trieste. He then travelled to New York and held a large show inspired by Cyprus at the “Cyprus House” in Manhattan.
1986 He had a one-man show at the Panselinos Gallery, Salonika.
1987 He held one-man shows in Frankfurt, Germany and at the Morfi Gallery, Limassol.
1989 This year he staged one-man shows at the Galleria Tribbio, Trieste and at the Morfi Gallery, Limassol. 1990 He began to divide his time between Italy and Cyprus on a more even basis and tended to stay for longer painting periods on the island. He held a one-man show at the Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia and executed murals, stained-glass and stone-incised murals for a variety of public buildings.
1991 He staged a one-man show at the Morfi Gallery, Limassol.
He held a one-man show at the Tribbio Gallery in Trieste and executed some mural work in ceramic. He also travelled in Italy and South of France. 1992 He held a one-man show at the Tribbio Gallery in Trieste and executed some mural work in ceramic. He also travelled in Italy and South of France.1993 He staged a one-man show at the Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia. 1995 He held three important exhibitions, in Ravenna, Italy, at the « Darsena di Città », in Greisbach, Germany, at the Columbia Gallery, at in Nicosia at the Apocalypse Gallery. 1996 He staged a one-man show in Frankfurt, Germany. He held exhibitions, in Nicosia at the Apocalypse Gallery, at the The Municipal Gallery in Mykonos, Greece, and in Hamburg, Germany, at the BP Gallery. 1997-2001 He held various exhibitions. 2001-2002 He started working on the frescoes of a small Byzantine church – All Saints Church – at the Cape Aspro, Pissouri, Cyprus. During the autumn 2002, Corbidge completed this masterpiece, still open to visitors at the Columbia Beach Resort. 2003 He held his last exhibitions, in Nicosia at the Apocalypse Gallery.
John Corbidge died in November 2003.
He was an artist who has pursued a powerful, highly personal vision, at once lyrical yet dramatic, with an uncompromising persistence, unswervingly throughout the years. He has found it necessary to avoid the compromises and corruption He has found it necessary to avoid the compromises and corruption in order to achieve this for he has never accepted agreements or contracts with galleries or favorable affiliations with the establishment, all time consuming and limiting activities. His freedom and total independence have been inseparable from he’s artistic integrity. Although paying no attention to socializing or to methods of marketing his work, he was at the center of attention throughout Europe for the highly original way of which he has explored, through his art, the very heart of the Mediterranean culture.
His work has been found in private and national collections all over the world.
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