Harold Riley is a fan. Salford Museum and Art Gallery has invited him to exhibit in the main gallery. And people are snapping up images by Nigel Walker for walls that might have once hung Lowry prints. Walker's instantly recognisable mad realist style is catching on…
The Salford Precinct print shows the market in full never-to-be-repeated splendour, as it's being knocked down next year (see here). It depicts fighting pigeons, the school uniform and carpet stalls, a smoking hoodie and some people just passing through, all transformed into a vibrant scene that encapsulates the place completely.
"It's a real account of what's going on" says Walker, currently based in Lower Kersal but originally from Ordsall "It's quite an ugly environment but I'm so pleased with it that it's made to look somehow beautiful."
The original Precinct canvas is huge and is one in a series of scenes that aim to kind of map both Salford and Manchester, warts and wonders and all. Having been away from Salford travelling the world for eight years on his mountain bike, Walker came back, saw the place with fresh eyes and decided to become "a tourist in my own city".
Now, rather than cycling around Asia, it's Eccles Precinct, the bus stop on Littleton Road and Peel Park that hold the magic for an artist whose last wage was drawn in 2000 when he gave up work to concentrate on fulfilling a dream. Walker paints up to ten hours a night, seven days a week and believes the poverty is worth it.
"Poverty is tough but I soldier on" he says "I feel that I'm achieving something."
He's definitely achieving a growing reputation, with Harold Riley a fan who recommended Walker to the Salford Art Gallery and Museum. And now he's been invited to exhibit at the main gallery in 2013.
"It's on the same walls that held Lowry's paintings that I visited as a child" he says "It's the sense of pride and it's what I've always wanted. When I was a child it was as remote as wishing to become a spaceman."
The original canvases that will be exhibited at the Art Gallery are massive and detailed, and every inch is symbolic of something. Like, there's a huge painting called In England We're Better Off, showing Salford from MediaCityUK and the upside down houses, to the derelict shops and tinned up houses of East Salford. A shadow on an empty house represents the flames from the summer riots which Walker could see from his window as he was painting.
Meanwhile, there's a tented shanty town thrown up in the middle of Pendleton to "show that there are people who don't really have a lot", and the China Sea restaurant on Eccles New Road gets major prominence to represent the growing wealth of Asia. For Walker, each of the paintings is a journey through either Salford or Manchester, rather than an accurate geographical record. But it's about capturing the zeitgeist rather than dull reality.
"I want to try and give a sensation of what it's like to go through an area" says Walker "It's the people I'm interested in and the people who make the areas. The old Salford is going and I want to capture it."
Salford Market is definitely going next year and it will never be captured like it's been captured in Nigel Walker's canvas. Unfortunately it's not being exhibited for another 12 months at least. But the poster print gives a great taste of what's to come.
The Salford Precinct print is one of seven poster prints produced and is available from the newsagent on Salford Precinct and at shops along Littleton Road in Lower Kersal.
The Salford Museum and Art Gallery shop has copies of all the prints (and at its online shop, click here) Price: £14
You can follow Nigel Walker on Facebook