There are two letters from Terence Sullivan to Ruth Borchard, c. 1964-65. The first, sent from Birmingham, informed Ruth ‘that the painting is on the way by rail’. In the second, he wrote: ‘I should be interested to know when your book will be published.’ In fact, when ‘Face to Face’, the book about Ruth’s Collection, was published in 2004, the text on Sullivan read simply:
‘Little is known about this artist. Dated 1963, [his self-portrait] is a carefully deliberated yet fresh self-portrait by a rather gauche-looking young man… The quite cherubic face, with its large, blue eyes, has a hesitant, slightly enigmatic mien. The light skin tones stand out strongly against darker ones elsewhere. The bluish-black-streaked hair, muted emerald green sweater, and murky brown jacket, as well as the picture’s navy background, are all well-judged in colour, tonally striking in themselves.
‘The ornate, curlicue-like green structure to the left of the figure surely represents the artist’s easel and canvas, though it may also be partly a decorative figment of the artist’s imagination. Interestingly, its rather fragmented, biomorphic-looking upper section set against areas of flat colour may be related to the formal preoccupations of British abstract art at the time.’
More information about this artist was only discovered in October 2010 when I (Philip Vann) contacted the artist by telephone at his home in Liverpool. Terry Sullivan, as he is known, was born in Ebbw Vale in South Wales in 1940. His father, an ex-coal miner, worked in the vast steelworks there. Terry describes his family as ‘very caring’ but his father was shocked when Terry, studying at Newport College of Art (1957-1961), brought home some nude still life charcoal drawings. His father’s response was ‘“Is this what you’ve been doing for two years?”, so I picked myself up, rolled them back up and took them back on that lone bus.’
Sullivan studied at Bournemouth College of Art from 1961-62. He worked for many years as Head of Art at two comprehensive schools in Liverpool. All the time he has continued painting. The final comment regarding his self-portrait in ‘Face to Face’ has proved curiously percipient: he has had a richly rewarding career as the creator of vibrantly pulsating abstract paintings and mixed media collages, showing at the Walker Art Galleries and at the Bluecoat in Liverpool, with a Retrospective at The Cornerstone Gallery at Liverpool Hope University in 2007.