YORK gallery According To McGee launches its dual Painting: Figures Underground and Imagined exhibition tomorrow.

Never-before-seen collections by former miner turned full-time artist Harry Malkin and the late Dave Pearson will be on show at the Tower Street art space until May 4.

Malkin makes a long-anticipated return to the McGee gallery walls after a five-year break. "It's good to be back here and to see a York gallery that has the vision to show the heart and guts that drove us as miners," he says.

Castleford miner Malkin had begun painting when he joined an art group at the outset of the miners' strike of 1984-85 and never looked back.

York Press:

Castleford artist Harry Malkin with According To McGee gallery co-director Ails McGee

"Coal was the fuel that fired the country into the first division with miners the driving force behind it," he says. "It is now history, along with the rest of heavy industry. I was brought up with coal from boy to man and lived through what was thought its best years and was there at its death. Working and watching."

His latest collection of mining scenes builds on aspects of his previous work. "The sense of camaraderie among the workers is there, as is the simple physicality of crouching in half-lit spaces one mile underground.

"My paintings always seem to connect, and whether that's because of the subject matter or how I've painted it, it's difficult to tell," says Harry, "I'm looking forward to seeing how they exhibit alongside Dave Pearson's collection."

York Press:

At the coalface: one of Harry Malkin's new paintings

Poignancy surrounds exhibiting Pearson's work after the north western artist died of cancer in 2008."We exhibit and sell his art to collectors from all over the UK, and that's an opportunity we're honoured to grab with both hands," says Greg McGee.

Co-director Ails McGee adds: "We like to think Dave would have approved of the curatorial decisions we make with his work. Credit must go to the Dave Pearson Trust, who initially rescued his studio in Haslingden and then made it their full-time job to organise his art, with experts declaring the collection is worth more than £1 million.

"They're a joy to work with, and this time they've risen to a new challenge, namely how to select art that dovetails with co-exhibitor Harry Malkin, who has his own vivid story to tell."

York Press:

An oil painting from Dave Pearson's Byzantium series

On show from today will be a collection of Pearson's small oil paintings related to one of his major series of works, Byzantium, painted in the 1990s.

"We've worked with the trust for six years, and for this show we're throwing a new synergy into the mix," says Greg. "Harry Malkin creates contemporary painting that can hold its own alongside Dave's, providing counterpoints and consolidation all the while."

McGee gallery manager and curator Sophie Austin enjoyed bringing the two artists' idiosyncratic, haunting work together. "Initially it's the differences between the two artists that is so exciting, but ultimately both collections look at the human figure," she says.

York Press:

Half dreamed, half remembered: the essence of Dave Pearson's art

"Harry's depictions of the figure focus on the tension of hard work in mines one mile underground, using technical, starkly lit machines. The authenticity and familiarity with how physically exhausting this work was can only come first hand experience.

"Dave Pearson's portraits of people are altogether more half dreamed, half remembered. The imagination takes precedence, with memory, ancient customs, and mask-like expressions floating in the most beautiful colourscapes."

Painting: Figures Underground and Imagined, by Harry Malkin and Dave Pearson, According To McGee, York, April 5 to May 4