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Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010
Work by Ron Ronaldson opens the new Edmund Gallery
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

The Edmund Gallery, Bury St Edmunds
The Edmund Gallery is next to the cathedral's gift shop on Angel Hill

A 90-year-old painter's landscapes have been chosen to open a new art gallery in Suffolk.

The Edmund Gallery on Angel Hill is run by St Edmundsbury Cathedral as a non-profit art project.

Ron Ronaldson, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, has 25 pictures of local and national scenes on display.

"I think it's a great space, it's got great lighting and tourists come from all over the world to see the cathedral and now they'll have this," he said.

"My work is a mixture of straightforward painting and semi-abstract work. I prefer the semi-abstract work because I think it adds something to what people have already seen.

"When photography came in people said it was the death of painting.

"In actual fact, it was beginning."

Hastings by Ron Ronaldson
Hastings by Ron Ronaldson, oil on canvas, 24x28 inches

Ron's not quite so mobile now, but his sketchbooks are filled with enough work to keep him painting at home.

He was born in 1919 in Newcastle upon Tyne and after decades in the Navy, he arrived in Suffolk via HMS Ganges and ended up working as a lab technician at the West Suffolk Hospital.

"I was interested in painting from school but I didn't do a lot there because I went to a technical school.

"I met a commercial artist while serving in the Royal Navy in the South Atlantic and he introduced me to oil painting, but before then I was just doing watercolours.

"I kept doing oil paintings abroad - Singapore, Ceylon - and then when I came back home I joined the local art society.

"It's become an obsession. It's an interest that gives you something unique and the more you do the better you get."

David Humphreys of St Edmundsbury Cathedral
David Humphreys is also the cathedral's assistant director of music

Art and god

The Edmund Gallery occupies rooms previously used by the cathedral's education department.

The arts co-ordinator at the cathedral is David Humphreys:

"We've always been lucky to hold exhibitions in the cloisters of the cathedral and we've always seen it as part of the cathedral's mission.

"There's some talk about how the creative instincts in man make him more god-like and that's why the cathedral has an arts programme.

"We've had to close the cloisters because of building work and this has been a wonderful opportunity to create something new.

"We're not running it commercially. We're just glad we can offer it to people in Bury and the wider area.

"Ron was willing to provide some work and we think it's lovely to have a local connection to it right at the beginning.

"I think the gallery will be successful if people want to use it as a space.

"If we can have a thriving arts programme it'll complement the concerts, music and plays that go on in the cathedral and that will round off the whole thing really.

"The director of the Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery [on Cornhill] has been helping us with this and sits on the cathedral's arts committee.

Ron Ronaldson at St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Ron Ronaldson's work is for sale with prices ranging from 200-750

"We hope this new gallery can complement it. This is a place where amateur artists and professionals can come.

"All we ask is for a contribution to the running costs and the space is there for them to use."

The new gallery looks out onto the main road through the historic part of town, so it's ideally placed for tourists visiting the cathedral and Abbey Gardens.

"The rooms are beautiful," said Ron. "The lighting's good, it's in a lovely space and it's a lovely place to have it.

"I'm not really religious, although I'm not non-religious!

"I'm a believer, but not one who attends church really."

The Edmund Gallery is open daily 10am-4.30pm and Ron's exhibition runs 13-23 February 2010. Ring the cathedral office on 01284 748726.

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