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Account written by John Henshall:
Review of Leofric Baron's book: A Strong Wind in Broadway Tennessee

Leofric Baron was St Brannock's leading artist and completed this first cahier d'artist just before his cruelly premature death from a heart attack in hospital at Norwich in June 2000. It is a powerful and beguiling mix of his fine outsider art and surrealist prose commentary. While on first reading the images and accompanying text may seem wholly random and unrelated, the longer one pours over it, the stronger the very real storyline becomes. We join an unidentified male protagonist on an alternately romantic and risky ride through an imaginary society peopled by cabbages which sprout teeth, gun-toting rock stars and solitary celebrants, one of whom is rejoicing ''because he's been saved and they've just won the war''.

Baron was born at Eastwood in Essex and had lived at Barrington Farm and the Rookery Residential Centre at tiny Walcott in north Norfolk since 1979. He had suffered chronic epilepsy since childhood and there had been intermittent bouts of schizophrenia. He was a shy man but once new acquaintances set him at ease he would talk at length and often entertainingly. His naturally mischievous humour pervades this book. One segment tells of Hereward the Wake: "After he killed the Queen he had a bit of trouble - the Germans were after him, so he built this house underwater''.

The images in the book are monoprint, which generally means producing a single, unrepeated image by placing a sheet of paper over a sheet of glass which has a thin film of ink rolled onto it. Then when the artist draws on the paper, the ink is lifted off the glass onto it. In Baron's book the pictures are multi-coloured. He made an initial drawing, then rolled another colour onto the glass and continued to draw. The Barrington Farm curator-animateurs, David Greaves and Fiona Wilson, have inserted a transparent slip-page on top of each page of image with Baron's text on it. Then the coloured, finished article is followed by a page showing only the original black and white monoprint. The book's production is both enterprising and impressive.

Baron exhibited at St Brannock's with the other members of the Barrington Art Barn gang, throughout East Anglia and in London and New York. He was represented by the Marion Harris Gallery at Simsbury, Connecticut and Harris says she has happy memories of Baron's pleasure at visiting the national American outsider art fairs, held in New York in January each year. His tragic death was not the only one to knock the farm and gallery sideways last year. Only three weeks earlier his fellow art barner, the talented ceramicist, Maria Wicko, had died of cancer.

Baron would explain his creative process:''I paint because I want to paint, to show people what I can do. I can make a shape come out of the colours I use -I use triangular shapes in my drawings quite a lot, and polygons. With paint I can make a violin into a whale, or a trombone look like a completely different shape and size''.

(A Strong Wind in Broadway Tennessee by Leofric Baron is published by St Brannocks Gallery, Cromer Road, Mundesley, England NR11 8BE, £30.00, £32.50 post paid).

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