THE Golden Ball, York's first co-operative community pub, is to play host to an exhibition inspired by life in a Yorkshire mining village, pub culture and the divine ethics of Sufism from Sunday.

The Pub And Working Life features the unique work of late West Yorkshireman Richard Alan Gardham (1941-2014), depicting the working and drinking community in South Elmsall from 1960 to 2005. The artist worked and drank alongside his subjects, many of them were his friends and he depicted himself frequently in the scenes.

From this weekend, The Golden Ball's lounge will be transformed into a gallery to exhibit 38 drawings and paintings in pencil, Indian ink and coloured inks. "The highlights of the show are two commemorative paintings executed in coloured inks as if they were watercolour," says Joe Gardham, the artist's nephew. "They show the mining history of South Elmsall; in particular the skill, resourcefulness and self-sufficiency of the miners and their families.

"Other coloured ink paintings are sensitive, luminous portraits with scenes of pub life that are fun and entertaining, and that all those who enjoy a pint will recognise."

This exhibition is not about the miners’ strike, says Joe. "But there are many images that relate to it, so the effect on the community can be followed as you scan the pictures around the room," he adds. "Richard never worked in the mines; he was a demolition worker and a builder's labourer. He observed and recorded the demolition of an old way of life in spirit and in bricks and mortar and the ensuing chaos of anger and confusion, eventually giving way to reconciliation."

In the 1960s, the young Richard Gardham, one of ten siblings born and raised in South Elmsall, travelled to London and the Scilly Isles. For a time he lived in J G Bennett's Institute at Coombe Springs, which in turn was passed on to Idries Shah, sparking Richard’s lifelong interest in Sufism. After the centre was closed, he returned to his West Yorkshire village, where he earned his living as a labourer.

For the rest of his days, Sufism and art were the motivating forces of his day-to-day life. His philosophy influenced his interpretation of the content of his work but the style is grounded in his application of emotive line drawing, as can be seen in the Golden Ball exhibition in his very early pencil drawing of factory workers through to his more esoteric, stark and powerful ink drawings of the 1990s.

The Pub And Working Life has been curated by Richard's sister, Angela Gardham, who rescued his life works and painstakingly sorted and categorised them in order to mount the exhibition.

"The work is unique and well worth including in a day trip to York and it can be enjoyed along with a pint of beer at The Golden Ball," says Joe, ahead of this free exhibition opening on Saturday at 12 noon.

Visitors will note the lack of titles on the 38 drawings. "He never put them on," explains Joe. "He never made things easily categorisable, preferring instead to challenge you to think about it and work things out for yourself."

Plenty to ponder over a pint.


What is Sufism?

Sufism is the mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.