John Alvaro Caldas 1934 - 2006. Works on Paper.

if place of birth determines entry into the voguish 'school' of Northern Art, then John Alvaro Caldas qualifies with something to spare. Born a stone's throw from Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery, John, if still alive, would no doubt have called into question the very idea of a regional group of artists with a common 'northern' thread. I sometimes wonder what he would have made of the market's eagerness to classify artists, placing them neatly into a rational, harmonious art history, free of anomaly or contradiction, thus allowing us to make retrospective sense of what is essentially a chaotic, accidental activity. Like me, he might have considered this desire for order to be a trait shared not just by dealers, curators and art historians, but by most of us trying to make sense of the world and everything in it. Whether he would also have shared my view that an artist's place in a fixed 'scheme of things' reassures the market, thereby underpinning the price, is a moot point.

It is now a commonly held view that for decades, artists' reputations have been increasingly inflated artificially in ever more elaborate ways by shrewd marketing and 'branding'. Less is known about the stellar careers that all too often fade when the market, for whatever reason, loses faith and when the willingness of influential taste makers to sustain elaborately composed fictions begins to wane. You only have to trawl the catalogues of second and third tier auction houses to find the works of many of the 'chosen' rising stars of the nineties and noughties lotted up alongside unfancied landscapes and still life paintings in the bargain basement; arguably a more appropriate and 'honest' level of exchange for much of this art.

It is therefore reassuring that the reputation of John Alvaro Caldas continues to grow steadily by more reliable conventions - word of mouth, occasional exhibitions and purchased works being seen and admired by others who become transfixed by the power within the paintings and by the sheer competence of execution; something worryingly absent from the work of most 'up and coming' artists. At some point, John's art will be classified in art historical terms and take its place in the grander scheme of North European art alongside the work of fellow northern artists L.S.Lowry and Theodore Major. Until then, we will continue to exhibit his paintings and drawings and, by increment, help to lay the foundations of a reputation that will survive the decades.

David Powell.

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