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Salford Calling: the other Lowry

The Clash on stage by Ray Lowry
Ray Lowry toured with The Clash and designed the London Calling album cover

The name 'Lowry' inevitably conjures up images of stick figures and smoking chimneys. But the talent of Salford's other Lowry is being honoured with a major new exhibition.

In the 1970s and 80s, artist Ray Lowry from Cadishead, Eccles earned a reputation as a wry observer of the music scene whose sardonic cartoons adorned the pages of the music paper NME and Private Eye.

A friend of punk band The Clash, he even designed one of the most iconic album covers of all time, 'London Calling'.

But his broader talent as a painter went largely unrecognised in his lifetime.

Now, just a year after his death, the largest retrospective exhibition of his work is to open at Salford Art Gallery.


Ray Lowry
Ray Lowry (1944 - 2008)

The 1970s and 80s were, of course, a world apart from the age of industrial Manchester painted by his more famous namesake LS Lowry.

But Ray's work was another form of social commentary, documenting the rise of punk and Thatcherism, and the cold war paranoia and inner city unrest of the time.

However, what really established his reputation was Ray's cover artwork for the album 'London Calling' which brought together Pennie Smith's rock 'n' roll photography with the typography from Elvis Presley's debut album.

Mick Jones, former Clash lead guitarist, said Ray's use of colour and his artistry, complemented their music perfectly.

"It was the same as the music, but in pictures," he said.

"Ray had a very particular idea of what rock and roll was about. He was a fanatic about real rock 'n' roll, but his work had an edge and it was art, not just a cartoon."


Former Clash guitarist Mick Jones remembers working with Ray Lowry

Ray's cartoons are a striking part of the exhibition many of which feature his characteristically violent and expressive use of black ink which he flicked, slashed and sometimes blotted on to the paper.

But there are also examples of Ray's work in colour, including his oil paintings of local urban landscapes and abstract subjects.

Ray's studio has even been recreated, his ink and paint stained desk complete with his pens and brushes can be seen alongside his favourite reading matter, his precious vinyl's and inspirational images.

Julian Williams, Trustee of Ray's work and the curator of the exhibition said:

"The divide between the popular world of cartoons and the more highbrow world of the art gallery wasn't something that bothered Ray Lowry.

"The opportunity to display his work from both ends of the spectrum is what makes this exhibition at Salford Art Gallery such an exciting prospect."

The Ray Lowry Retrospective is at Salford Museum & Gallery until Sunday 7 March 2010.


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