A heartfelt tribute to a West Dean alumnus by former tutor Marcus Rees Roberts:
John Moate, who was a Visual Arts student at West Dean, died on Christmas Eve. He had been a student twice, once early in the programme’s life when he was in his early eighties, and he returned a few years later in 2009 to complete his MFA. There was a second reason for his return: he had accidentally burnt his partner’s house down, she moved into his house while it was rebuilt and he came to West Dean. He found this very funny. He found much of life funny. Life was for him an endless source of amusement and he shared this with everyone he met. He was charm personified. When a visiting tutor found him drawing a still life, the tutor said, “Ah, drawing! We love drawing at my college. We get the students to drop pins onto a piece of A4 paper, and put a mark where they fall. Then they join up the marks and that’s their drawing.” “What a good idea”, said John, amused as ever. “I bet they get much better results than anything I can do”. He picked up a piece of pastel and scrawled across his drawing, ‘Bring in bag of nails.’
John was superb painter. Although the oldest in the studio by some measure, he was the youngest in his energy and aesthetic adventure. He could turn his hand to anything and make it his own. His paintings of the West Dean landscape and the hills of Andalucia were extraordinary in their rich, youthful bravado. I always looked forward to a tutorial with him and never left his space without learning something and feeling a happier man. If I ever ventured a suggestion he would say, “Ah, here it comes. He slips his stiletto from under his cloak and slides it between my ribs and into my heart. Go on. Say it…”
He was a wonderful, life-enhancing man and the world will be a sadder, duller place without him.
Marcus Rees Roberts, January 2017