Cary Grant’s visit to Norwich is re-imaged in exhibition by Norfolk artist
PUBLISHED: 13:45 11 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:52 11 March 2017
Acclaimed artist Nina Mae Fowler’s exhibition, The Day Cary Came To Norwich, throws a spotlight on ‘the darker side of fame’.
Aged just 14, Cary Grant — then named Archie Leach, visited Norwich on a fleeting trip with an acrobatic group to perform at the Hippodrome.
This real life event involving a young performer who would go on to international stardom as one of Hollywood’s most suave leading men, is now the subject of a new exhibition by Norfolk artist Nina Mae Fowler.
The exhibition, The Day Cary Came To Norwich, which runs at the Fairhurst Gallery on Bedford Street until April 8, throws a spotlight on what the artist refers to as ‘the darker side of fame’.
The drawings depict an imaginary scenario of a mature Cary Grant indulging in the sights and sounds on offer in our fine city, with the narration of each piece left to the imagination and interpretation of the viewer.
Her show is built on a seed of truth, aiming to portray scandal, gossip, and misrepresentation, as a means of stirring-up a false truth.
“The exhibition will be a celebration of Norwich and Hollywood coming together at a particular moment in time,” explains the artist.
Though the then teenage performer’s visit to the grand Hippodrome Theatre in St Giles with a troupe of acrobats called the Nippy Nines — Evening News described the performance as “a party of the liveliest comedians and acrobatic dancers” — is well known, Nina reinvents the occasion.
“I had the idea to create an entire show based upon a fictional event,” she says. “The viewer will be taken on a tour of intricate drawings, apparently depicting Cary Grant enjoying the sights and sounds of Norwich. Their imagination can make up the rest.”
Born in London, studying in Brighton, and currently residing in Norfolk, this is Nina’s first exhibition in the county. Using a myriad of media, the common themes which appear within her artwork revolve around power, desire, and success.
She has an extensive range of accolades to her name. She was nominated for the BP Portrait Prize and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize, The Young Masters Prize, and the Aesthetica Art Prize.
Her work is collected by a plethora of stars including Sienna Miller, Jude law, James Purefoy and Caroline Issa. It can be viewed in public collections in the USA, UK and Europe, and is also held in private collections across the world.
As well her show at the Fairhurst Gallery, Nina is also preparing for a solo exhibition in London, and has upcoming shows in Los Angeles, Paris and Leipzig.
Nina is part of an artistic couple as her husband Craig Wylie is also an artist. His painting of Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
They couple work separately, but Nina says: “Craig always encourages me to take a drawing a little further or be a bit more patient as I am often over-excited to say something is finished. I, on the other hand, encourage Craig to work faster as I love his technique when the brushstrokes are loose and less defined but I also have huge admiration for the works he produces which go beyond the realms of reality, with such detail, layer upon layer of colour and light.”
Though this is Nina’s first local exhibition, it is not the first time she has portrayed local links to Hollywood celebrity.
In 2014 she collaborated with Tim Hannam of the Bronzecraft foundry in Attleborough on a sculpture named Jimmy. Made from aluminium partly sourced from Second World War aircraft, it recreated a famous photograph of James Stewart taken at Old Buckenham airfield in 1944, when the actor was serving with the 453rd Bomb Group.
He was depicted sitting on the railings of the control tower, watching for his crew’s safe return.
• Nina Fowler: The Day Cary Came to Norwich, Fairhurst Gallery, Websdales Court, Bedford Street, Norwich, March 11-April 8, Tues-Sat 9.30am-5.30pm, admission free, 01603 614214, www.fairhurstgallery.co.uk