RNLI volunteer crew member and artist, David Gillingwater, has combined his passion for creativity and Aldeburgh RNLI by capturing his fellow crew in a collection of oil painting portraits for a very special exhibition taking place from 22 – 28 November at The Garage Gallery on Aldeburgh seafront.
Aldeburgh lifeboat volunteers have been keeping people safe around the east coast for over 115 years. To guarantee his generation of lifesavers will always be remembered, David began the painting project.
He said: ‘I began painting the lifeboat crew in October 2017. I’ll probably finish the last one the night before the exhibition! There’s something about each painting that I really love – the one I’m working on at the time is the painting I fall in love with most.’
The collection captures the spirit of every crew members, as well as beloved station dog, George. Some of the crew are painted in their full kit aboard the station’s all-weather Mersey class lifeboat, Freddie Cooper. The volunteers were overwhelmed when they first saw the paintings.
David said: ‘A lot of the crew came to see the paintings at a preview in the summer and they were blown away – they absolutely love them. They got a real surprise when they saw them in real life. No matter how good the camera or the photographer, you can’t capture how special a painting is until you see it for yourself.’
The Garage Gallery on Aldeburgh Seafront delivers the perfect setting to view the time-capsule project.
David added: ‘The gallery makes you feel like you’re in the wheelhouse – you’ve got the natural soundtrack of the sea right in front of you. With the paintings there, you feel like you’re surrounded by the crew: like they’re protecting you. That’s what they do – and that’s what I’m trying to get across.’
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Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.
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