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Tributes paid to internationally-renowned Bungay artist

PUBLISHED: 09:10 09 April 2015 | UPDATED: 09:10 09 April 2015

Bungay blind artist Sargy Mann at his drum kit in the garden studio of his home.
For : EDP2
Copy : Angela Kennedy 
Photo : Steve Adams
Copyright Archant Norfolk

Bungay blind artist Sargy Mann at his drum kit in the garden studio of his home. For : EDP2 Copy : Angela Kennedy Photo : Steve Adams Copyright Archant Norfolk

Tributes have been paid to an internationally-renowned artist whose works were collected by a host of celebrities and who continued painting long after he lost his sight.

Blind Bungay artist Sargy Mann in his studio

For : EDP2
Copy : Angi Kennedy
Picture : SubmittedBlind Bungay artist Sargy Mann in his studio For : EDP2 Copy : Angi Kennedy Picture : Submitted

Sargy Mann, who lived in Bungay, developed cataracts on both eyes while in his mid-30s, a condition which eventually led to his total blindness. The 77-year-old, who was married to Frances and who had four children and three grandchildren, had been diagnosed with liver cancer eight months ago and died surrounded by his family on Easter Sunday. A thoughtful man, with a fascinating life story and a real passion for painting, Mann acclaimed work was exhibited at galleries in London and sold around the world.

“He painted until the last couple of weeks before his death and was writing about art the day before he died,” said his daughter Susanna. “He was completely amazing and loved by a lot of people.”

Born in Kent, Mann began his art career as a student at Camberwell College of Arts between 1960 and 1964 - but not before he played drums in a jazz trio which included Dudley Moore on piano - he would later teach there for nearly 20 years.

His love of jazz saw him take to the stage to play drums with his friend Bobby Wellins, considered by many to be the finest British saxophonist ever, at Bungay’s Fisher Theatre in January, despite his poor health.

Jason Collins, owner of the Fisher Theatre, said of the special One for Sargy concert: “It was a great night to have a talented musician like Sargy perform in January. He wasn’t well but he did the set and it was amazing and people loved it. His death is a great loss to Bungay.”

Ken Skipper, owner of cork Brick Gallery in Bungay, said: “He’s been a great inspiration to lots of people. He was a wonderful man who was interested in everything around him and his memory will live on through his paintings.”

In the 1960s, he moved into the home of friends and writers Kingsley Amis, and his wife Elizabeth Jane Howard, as a house guest and spent much of his time painting in their garden. Elizabeth Jane would also become his neighbour at Bridge Street in Bungay, until her death last January.

Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and his son Daniel Day-Lewis lived alongside Mann in the Amis’s household for a time, and Daniel Day-Lewis - the multi Oscar-winning Hollywood actor - went on to become a fan and collector of Mann’s work. Other noted collectors have included Stephen Spielberg, Bruce Springsteen and author Iris Murdoch.

Man’s sight started to deteriorate in 1973 but he continued to paint and work as a lecturer. He was officially registered blind in 1988, and he lost his sight on his return to his home in Bungay after a trip to Spain with his filmmaker son Peter where he had been researching landscapes for future paintings.

While his vision had been fading, he had begun to adapt his techniques, first with a specifically modified telescope, and when his sight failed totally, he would creating form and composition through touch, employing strategically placed lumps of Blu-Tack and rubber bands to map out his canvases as he worked in his studio beside the river and water meadows he loved so much. His wife, also an artist, modelled for some of his works and assisted him by mixing colours.

What are your memories of Mann and his artwork? email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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