John Furnival

 Honorary profile 

The late John Furnival was a distinguished artist and one of the best loved artist-teachers of the community that was Bath Academy of Art at Corsham. He was also one of the longest serving; he taught at the Bath Academy and at the re-formed Bath School of Art and Design between 1960 and 2002.

John's former students were among the many people who enjoyed his recent exhibition, curated by Professor Bernard Moxham, as it toured during 2018 and 2019 before reaching the Michael Pennie Gallery at Bath Spa University's Locksbrook Campus.

John is probably best known for what have been termed his ‘wordscapes’: the extraordinary images made through drawing letters, words, phrases and long passages directly onto paper, painted panels or screens, usually in pen and ink.

Hand-drawn letter and words

The Indices of Poems by W H Davies (E and F) (2000)

An exhibition symposium in January 2020 celebrated his art and enduring influence. It embraced his love of and engagement in music with a performance of piano works by one of his heroes, Erik Satie.

John was born in 1933 in London, where he studied at the Royal College of Art. He lived for most of his life at Nailsworth. He often described himself, in a characteristic tongue-in-cheek way, as a “drawer”, and his subjects as personages and landscapes. He is probably best known for what have been termed his ‘wordscapes’: the extraordinary images made through drawing letters, words, phrases and long passages directly onto paper, painted panels or screens, usually in pen and ink.

His wife, textile artist Astrid Furnival, was one of his many collaborators. He also collaborated with contemporaries and peers that he met through working relationships formed at the Royal College and Corsham Court.

His work is in many important collections, including the V and A, Tate, British Council, Arts Council, and the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. It is also enjoyed by many admirers in private collections across the world.

John passed away in May 2020. A tribute, co-written by Professor Mike Tooby, appears in the Guardian.

"John can surprise us, even now"

Astrid Furnival

Some years ago, John, who had firm ideas about the value of poetry, suddenly grabbed a piece of paper and wrote on it this 'memoriam':

In My Own Memoriam

Memories
murmur
in me
like bees weaving
from flower
to flower
leaving behind
the latest hour
on their way
to eternity.

一 John Furnival

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