A new exhibition featuring highly innovative prints by Irish artist and former Wolverhampton Polytechnic student Tim Mara will go on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery next month.

Bringing together loans from his family and Advanced Graphics London with works from the Gallery’s collection, this show seeks to give an overview of Mara’s output, from his early days studying at Wolverhampton Polytechnic between 1970 and 1973, through to his teaching career at the Royal College of Art.

Although his work has some characteristics with Pop Art, Mara did not consider himself a Pop artist. Instead he identified with a painterly tradition going back to 17th century masters Diego Velásquez and Johannes Vermeer, with Velásquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas (1656) a source of inspiration throughout his career. 

The 6 month exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery showcases complex, multi-layered compositions and how they were painstakingly constructed, with the artist designing his own wallpapers, sourcing his own props and casting friends as characters, like a film director setting up a scene. 

There will be 26 framed prints on display, alongside one of Mara’s sketch books, a beautiful book of screen prints he co-produced with Chris Plowman and a small digitally printed ceramic work by his daughter, artist Alice Mara. 

Councillor Harman Banger, City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “It is always great to see a local connection to our exhibitions and to have the city’s art collection out on display.

“The pieces in this exhibition are bright and bold, and it is great to know that five of them were completed while the artist was studying in Wolverhampton, and formed part of his degree show, while another was based on the interior of a house in Lea Road, Wolverhampton.”

Alice and Emily Mara, daughters of Tim Mara said: “We are delighted and very proud that Wolverhampton Art Gallery has chosen to exhibit a selection of our father’s work in their newly refurbished space. 

“Dad's days at Wolverhampton were at the start of his journey into art. His experiences here built the foundation for his future success.

“A precise, contemporary and beautifully crafted body of work that is a portrait of the place and the people in his life at that time.

“His legacy continues through the Tim and Belinda Mara Trust, awarding prizes to printmaking degree students, and through shows such as this. We hope that visitors to this great gallery are inspired by his work and moved by the creative process in which he took so much pride.”

Born in Dublin in 1948, Mara moved with his family to England in 1953 where he continued to live and work. He was Head of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art, London but sadly died in 1997, aged only 48. 

His prints are included in collections at the Tate London, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Irish Museum of Modern Art as well as many other galleries and private collections worldwide, including Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

The exhibition opens on Saturday 21 September and will continue until Sunday 29 March. Admission is free and the gallery is open Monday to Saturday from 10.30am to 4.30pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. 

Several of the prints on display will be available for sale, with proceeds going to the Tim and Belinda Mara Trust, which supports excellence and innovation in printmaking through awards to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Visitors are also invited to a season launch on Friday 20 September from 4.30pm where there will be a talk and tour of the exhibition. For more information, please email art.gallery@wolverhampton.gov.uk or call 01902 550535.