Gallery marks miner artist Bob Olley's 80th birthday

Bob Olley Image copyright House of Hues
Image caption Bob Olley said the only way to describe life underground was to draw it

The 80th birthday of an artist and former miner is being marked with an exhibition in County Durham.

Bob Olley started work at his local colliery in 1957, at the age of 17.

He became a full-time artist in 1974, with his work chronicling life above and below ground.

A collection of his oil paintings, sculpture and sketches is on show at the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland until 10 May.

Westoe Netty Image copyright Robert Olley
Image caption Westoe Netty is arguably Bob Olley's best-known painting

His work turns the spotlight on daily life in the North East and captures historic scenes - from the Blaydon Races to the miners' strikes of the 1980s.

The exhibition includes Westoe Netty - a humorous depiction of a public urinal - which sparked controversy at its first showing, nearly causing the show to be closed on the grounds of indecency.

High Speed Drifters by Bob Olley Image copyright South Shields Museum and Art Gallery
Image caption High Speed Drifters illustrates his last job at Whitburn Colliery

The artist, who now lives and works in South Shields, said: "I have always expressed myself best through art.

"When I first went down the mines I found it hard to articulate how I felt about the blinding dark, the noise and the constant movement - the only way to describe my life underground was to draw it.

"It was the camaraderie, friendships and laughter that carried everyone along, that famous Geordie humour.

"I have a great love for the people of the North East and the mining communities, there's something special about them and I love bringing that to life on canvas."

Back Lane of Eccleston Road Image copyright Robert Olley
Image caption Back Lane of Eccleston Road depicts a typical laundry day in a mining community

Angela Thomas, Exhibitions Curator at the Mining Art Gallery, said: "Bob is one of the most instantly recognisable artists in the North East.

"His unique graphic style brings to life the world of the miner and the solidarity of the communities."

Ravenous Rodents Image copyright Robert Olley
Image caption Bob Olley worked in a colliery for more than a decade

All images copyright as stated.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites