Artist’s spectacular West Kirby birthday tribute to Bob Dylan

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An exhibition of paintings by Wirral artist Tony Kenwright opens in West Kirby today – to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday.

A staggering 54 of his paintings featuring the iconic singer-songwriter cover the walls of the exhibition space in West Kirby Concourse.

The exhibition, which runs until this Saturday (May 28), is one of the highlights of Forever Young, a week long Bob Dylan festival organised by the West Kirby Arts Centre.

Tony, 65, from Wallasey, is a massive Bob Dylan fan, having attended around 50 of his concerts, his first at the age of 15. In 2014 he even made a road trip to Hibbing and Duluth, Minnesota, where Dylan spent his formative years.

Artist Tony Kenwright at his "Visions of Bob Dylan" exhibition
Artist Tony Kenwright at his “Visions of Bob Dylan” exhibition

West Kirby Today caught up with Tony yesterday as he put the finishing touches to his exhibition before a preview party at the concourse last night.

Tony spent 37 years as a press photographer with the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, and says it was on a trip to London to watch Dylan in concert that his passion for painting was born.

“I had always enjoyed sketching, and was half interested in art,” said Tony. “But in 1991 I went to see Bob Dylan at Hammersmith Odeon, and while I was there I went to the Tate Gallery.

“It was one of those Eureka moments. Suddenly I understood it all. I stood in front of those paintings with tears in my eyes. When I came back home I bought some paints and got started.”

Artist Tony Kenwright hangs one of his works at his Visions of Bob Dylan exhibition at West Kirby Concourse
Artist Tony Kenwright hangs one of his works at his Visions of Bob Dylan exhibition at West Kirby Concourse

The birth of his children put his painting on the back burner for a while, but when he left the newspaper industry, with his children now older, he had the perfect opportunity to pick up his brushes once again.

He paints a wide variety of subjects, but only brought his twin passions for Dylan and painting together for the first time about five years ago.

“The first one was All Along The Watchtower,” said Tony. “You could spend forever painting pictures based on his songs.

“I have painted a lot of portraits of Dylan too, because his face has changed so much over the years.”

Some of the 54 Dylan-inspired works on display at Tony Kenwright's West Kirby exhibition
Some of the 54 Dylan-inspired works on display at Tony Kenwright’s West Kirby exhibition

Some of the paintings are based on familiar Dylan album covers, like “Desire” and “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. Others are Tony’s own visualisations of scenes from Dylan songs like Romance in Durango, Tangled Up in Blue and Simple Twist of Fate.

He has also created his own image of Dylan’s meeting with the ailing folk legend Woody Guthrie when he first moved to New York.

“While I paint many other subjects, Dylan is definitely my most recurring theme. It is great for me to see them all together in an exhibition format like this.”

Tony works in acrylics, finding oils too frustrating for the pace at which he likes to work. “With acrylics you can paint out your mistakes immediately,” he laughs.

Visitor enjoys last night's preview of Tony Kenwright's "Visions of Bob Dylan" exhibition
Visitor enjoys last night’s preview of Tony Kenwright’s “Visions of Bob Dylan” exhibition

“Some of my paintings take a couple of hours, while others can take a couple of weeks. Portraits are much better done quickly. I don’t like paintings that are too fiddly and intricate – I like bold brush strokes.”

After all those years on assignments for the picture desk of the Daily Post and Echo, Tony is revelling in the freedom of his new career.

“It is mine and I can paint what I want. It’s lovely when people like what you have created and buy something, but I do like being able to choose my own subjects.

“I have always hated the idea of being a hobby artist though. I do it professionally. Some of the pictures here are prints because the originals have been sold.

“With photography what you saw you had to take, particularly before Photoshop came along. With painting you can literally move mountains if you want to.”

You can see Tony’s artwork on his website www.tonykenwright.com. For information on the many live musical events during the Forever Young festival, go to the West Kirby Arts Centre Facebook page.

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