COULD Doug Bindcr be "the greatest living figurative artist in the UK"?

According to Greg McGee, he might well be. "Doug Binder is by any standard a jewel in the crown of contemporary painting, and that's in Britain, not just the North," says the co-director of According To McGee, the Tower Street gallery in York, where the Life Story: Doug Binder exhibition opened to a packed preview and healthy sales.

"His legacy extends all the way to the 1960s, when he played a massive part in London's Swinging Sixties scene. His time spent with The Beatles has passed into art folklore. Painting Paul McCartney's Knight piano must have been a decent calling card for a young Bradfordian, and the dizzying ascent into the glittering cultural circles that followed was, by all accounts, an exciting time with plenty of stories."

Doug concurs: "This was in the days when you could just ring up and speak to The Beatles. I remember going round to John Lennon's house for a meeting with him and Paul McCartney. Paul and John were great. We used to have dinner with them. This was in their early days, they had not yet released the Magical Mystery Tour LP. They were nice people. They even played some of the music to us that they composed in their bathroom."

York Press:

Ails McGee and Doug Binder at his Dean Clough studio in Halifax

As fans of The Beatles and the culture that spawned them, Greg and Ails McGee are always excited by the accompanying magic brought by Binder's exhibitions, but this is only one part of the jigsaw that makes him "the perfect exhibitee" at According To McGee.

"This is Doug's third time here, and we love to hear about The Beatles and The Kinks just as much as anyone, but it's his work that seals the deal," says Greg. "The colours crackle with copper and a refulgent, buttery light, and the contours he makes are exquisite. In many ways, it is the work of a new artist, fresh off the block, burning to prove himself."

Co-director Ails McGee picks up this point, saying "You can't fake it. Doug says it himself: he survived the 1960s, and whatever propelled him to the heights he reached, he turned his back on it to pursue a line of work that meant more to him than the pop-psychedelic approach.

"Call it what you like, artistic yearning, or professional focus. I like to think it's integrity, and for our gallery it's humbling to see that go hand in hand with the sheer quality of his latest collection. It obviously comes from the same master painter as the shows we have shown so successfully here previously, but it has also evolved, with the mood deepening a little."

York Press:

"Painting a model is even better than painting a landscape," says Doug Binder, whose exhibition features this work, Constructed Figure

Binder explains that evolution. "To me, painting a model is even better than painting a landscape, but this latest collection shows a development," he says. "My recent pieces are more dour, I use a lot of green now."

Dour? "Maybe," says Ails, amused by Doug's description. "Beautiful, definitely. A lot of this work has an undulating, landscape quality, which in many ways is the Holy Grail of the figurative artist. I saw instantly when I visited Doug at Halifax that his latest work is changing and diversifying."

Ails visited Doug at the Dean Clough studios, where he works as the painter in residence, in late 2015 to prepare for this exhibition. "I love Dean Clough, and it was great to see Doug's creative process up close," she says. "As well as a heavier green in the palette, a lot of his recent works involve a glowing erasure of the face and contours of the model, so the figure seems to melt into the painted interior."

Life Story marks the McGees' gallery entering its 13th year. "This exhibition unpacks Binder's dedication to painting in the Life studio, but it also reflects our mantra. Experimental contemporary painting is here to stay," says Greg. "Looking at Binder's constantly evolving career, and despite what the naysayers say, I don't think painting ever went away."'

Life Story: Doug Binder runs at According To McGee, Tower Street, York, until December 4. Open Monday to Friday, 11am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, by appointment only on 01904 671709. Admission is free.