Born in 1919, in Spennymoor, County Durham, Norman Stansfield Cornish was 65 when he was persuaded to write his autobiography. He called it ‘A Slice of Life’ and indeed it was just that although one could say that it was brought into being a little prematurely given that a further three decades of remarkable activity were to follow its publication. Sid Chaplin, his fellow miner and alumnus of the ‘Pitman’s Academy’ at Spennymoor vividly described in a memorable ‘Guardian’ article of 1960 the ‘Narrow World’ that Cornish had created. ‘Cornish’s narrow world has two poles, two extremes’ he maintained. ‘On the daylight side are pigeon crees and allotments, pit rows and pubs, fish and chip vans and market stalls, men carrying banners he himself designed. Time is defeated; the demolished houses, the dying woman, are there in paint. The derelict is whole again. The living are caught before they go; the pigeon fanciers, corner-enders, off-shift miners squatting on their hunkers and soaking in the sunshine and the good crack. In a moment the bus will come and the buzzer blow for the backshift. Now it is all recorded, time cannot take away the seven ages of man and woman - his grandmother, sister, wife and daughter; or his father and brothers, his friends and pit marras. Soon the baby will be a small boy; he will change, a drawing or painting is a shot against time.’

“I made drawings of pub workers in days past because I was fascinated by the men standing at the bar drinking and talking, or sitting playing dominoes. I was attracted by the wonderful shapes that they make in their varied attitudes. I also realised that life would change in some ways. The local collieries have gone, together with the pit road. Many of the old streets, chapels and pubs are no more. A large number of the ordinary but fascinating people who frequent these places are gone. However, in my memory, and I hope in my drawings, they live on. I simply close my eyes and they all spring to life.”  Norman Cornish

Exhibitions at Gallagher & Turner:
Paintings, Drawings and Prints
17 October - 23 December 2015

Summer Exhibition
13 July - 10 September 2016

Cornish on Tyneside
25 November 2016 - 4 February 2017

101 Years of British Art
15 September - 21 October 2017

Two Miners on Pit Road
Ink and watercolour on paper
14.5 x 20.5cm

Man and Dog At Bar
Charcoal and chalk on paper