Oils to ashes

A LOCAL gallery has come to the aid of artist John Cartwright after 1000 of his paintings were lost when his Inglewood studio went up in flames last week.

Cartwright, renowned for his landscapes of south-west WA, lost nearly his entire life works when a wood heater in his studio set the building ablaze.

The painter only managed to rescue three paintings from the studio—at the back of Inglewood Hotel—and was pulled from the blaze by a passer-by.

“I lit the wood heater in the studio and went over to my house to eat a quick meal,” Cartwright says.

“Next thing I knew I heard this crackling sound and the building was engulfed in flames.

“I tried to put it out but I couldn’t get the nozzle on the hose in my garden—the flames were 30-foot high and fuelled by tins of varnish and paint.”

“I’m still in a state of shock, I lost over 1000 oil paintings and I estimate the value to be at least $500,000.”

• Artist John Cartwright at his burnt-down studio. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Artist John Cartwright at his burnt-down studio. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

After hearing the news, Studio 281 in Maylands, which has previously exhibited John’s work, offered to help out.

“I gave John a cheque for $1000 and offered him 160sqm of studio space to work in,” says Studio 281 owner Leo Flavel.

“Fortunately, John still has some larger paintings in his house and we will be holding an exhibition of those in four weeks’ time.

“Ironically a couple of days after the fire, we sold seven of John’s paintings: I guess people now think they are scarce and more valuable.”

Mr Flavel adds Cartwright, 64, has been a steady seller at the studio and in one exhibition sold 49 works, a studio record.

Cartwright says he only had home and contents insurance and not business insurance for his studio.

“I’m up in the air at the moment and trying to get the insurance sorted out,” he says.

“They still need to clear the block; sometimes I think I should sell up and move on. I can’t sleep right now, because those paintings were done over 20 years—it’s my life’s work.”

Cartwright is originally from Leeds in England and moved to Australia in 1977.

He specialises in landscapes featuring farmhouses in the south-west of WA.

The heritage-listed studio, at the intersection of Beaufort Street and Central Avenue, was formerly stables for the hotel.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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