When the Beatles released Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in 1967, it became received wisdom that the fantastical imagery of the lyrics - Tangerine Dreams and Marmalade Skies - was an oblique tribute to the mind altering properties of the drug, LSD. John Lennon consistently denied this, and in fact the song was inspired by a painting by John's son, Julian.
The song was once described as "a sonic carpet that enveloped the ears and sent the listener spinning into other realms" and this description always springs to mind when we write about the work of Steve Capper. His work is hard to classify, but perhaps has most in common with Bernard Buffet, the famous French expressionist. Buffet was a part of the Saint-Tropez scene, including Johnny Hallyday and Brigitte Bardot and when he died in 1999, Le Figaro gave him a ten page obituary.
Steve Capper's home of Delph, near Oldham, could not be much more removed from St Tropez if it tried, but this landscape inspires Steve, who focuses on the shapes and patterns formed by the clouds, hills and fields surrounding him and emphasises the simplicity of form with the bold and occasionally surreal use of primary colours.
Steve, who trained at Manchester College of Art, was Head of the Art Faculty at Saddleworth School until his retirement in 1996, when he dedicated his retirement years to painting. Like Buffet before him, Steve's work divides opinion - bland they are not, nor are they recognisably part of what has become known as The Northern School, a Lowry inspired genre rapidly descending into pastiche.
Instead they make use of bold, sometimes clashing, primary colours, simple shapes, lines and forms and an increasing use of texture. When hung, they look out of place in a traditional Victorian home in a way that, say, an Adolphe Valette would not. But when they are displayed against a plain wall, in a modern home with plenty of light, Steve's pictures steal the show - they are possessed of a great deal of "wall power".
Each time we have a solo show for Steve, it is always a treat to see the Gallery come alive with vibrancy and colour when his pictures are hung together, not having to fight on the walls with the contrasting style of other artists. It is rare to find an artist who goes against the convention with such single-minded purpose - he is at the forefront of those who are taking northern art in a new direction.