Inspired by L.S. Lowry’s paintings of life in northern industrial towns and the Durkin family’s personal link to the artist’s work, Sean Durkin’s creations provide a Lowryeque twist on life in twentieth century Middlesbrough.
In 1972, Durkin’s father John stole and held to ransom an L.S. Lowry painting of Middlesbrough’s Old Town Hall and St Hilda’s Church from Middlesbrough Art Gallery - a stone’s throw from Ayresome Park. In exchange for the painting’s safe return, he demanded that the Mayor raffle his underpants for charity and that the Gallery open on Sundays “to allow the working man to get some culture”.
Inspired by his father’s attempt to broaden access to the arts, Sean Durkin’s work draws inspiration from Lowry’s depictions of the Saturday afternoon ritual of going to the match. A number of the Middlesbrough-born artist’s paintings revisit Ayresome Park - sometimes accompanied by a police officer and robber in a nod to his father’s exploits - with the Teesside skyline providing an instantly recognisable backdrop. Durkin’s ‘The Boy in the Window’ is inspired by the story of friend Mark Bennett. As a young boy, Mark would go to watch his heroes in red and white play but rather than popping into the Holgate, he would instead watch the action unfold from the window of an unused ward at the Holgate Hospital where his dad worked, located behind the stand of the same name.