Painter who never left returns to Sheffield

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An artist who lost the right to exhibit and sell work under his own name is showing his paintings in Sheffield for the first time in 20 years.

Michael Dolby hit difficulties after signing a contract with a small gallery in London, and decided to adopt another name to sell his work abroad instead.

But now Michael, from Halfway, is showing several of his pictures at The Forum on Devonshire Street, with a larger exhibition planned for later this year.

He has also been lending his artistic talents to a BBC television film – and said he feels like ‘the new kid on the block again at 60’.

Michael explained that he signed the deal with the gallery in the capital in 1994.

“The terms, although they looked OK, turned out to be rubbish,” he said.

“Forty per cent of the proceeds for each item sold went to the gallery, and on top of that there was a clause which said the artist paid 50 per cent of the VAT, with a further discount of five per cent for favoured customers of the gallery.

“It was costing me to sell stuff through the gallery.”

Then Michael became one of 10 artists who had their accounts frozen while the gallery was subject to a HMRC investigation.

“It meant I wasn’t earning any money. My only option was to start selling stuff under another name.”

He continued to live and work in Sheffield, but his work went to Germany, Holland and Belgium.

However, recently Michael was asked to get involved in a project with another high-profile artist – a BBC TV film to be broadcast in spring.

The details are being kept under wraps for now, but the work involved sourcing photography.

“They insisted I use my own name so I have taken the opportunity to start in this country again. I was ready for a change.

“I’m starting at the bottom again. It’s a humbling and refreshing experience.”

Before working full-time as an artist, the father-of-two had a career in IT, but returned to university aged 36 to complete a fine art degree at Sheffield Hallam University.

His new paintings are one element of an installation with the working title The Disaster Capitalism Show – a statement ‘on the way Western countries exploit third world countries in particular’.

Michael said he is using The Forum as a venue until March 15, meaning his art ‘gets to be seen by as many people as possible’.

“Three people who had left the Pinochet regime in Chile came to Sheffield and wanted to talk about it. Then I had a couple of people from Iraq, who ran away from the first Gulf War.”

Other small shows are in the pipeline and negotiations over a space for the later exhibition are under way, with a target date in October.