Starstruck by Frank's work
STAR TREK legend Patrick Stewart boasts a fine art collection.
But while the Mirfield-born star has his pick of works by the world’s top artists, he doesn’t have to travel the universe to find some of his favourites.
Frank To, a fine art graduate from Huddersfield University, is deeply admired by Patrick and has sold him five of his paintings since graduating from his course three years ago.
And, unsurprisingly, the Royal Shakespeare Company actor prefers his art to have a theatrical quality.
Frank first came face-to-face with Patrick, the university’s chancellor, at his end-of-course show.
He said: “I was putting the finishing touches to my work before the show and my tutor came in and asked me if I wanted to meet Patrick, who was having a sneak preview of the degree show.
“He told me he was completely blown away by my work, and the style and scale of it.
“We got talking about it in some depth, and after the show he got back in touch with me and requested some paintings.
“He enjoys the emotional impact of my work and the pieces of mine he has collected are very emotive.
“They are quite dark and have a Shakespearean quality to them. One has a visual reference to the Tempest.
“Patrick doesn’t tell me what he wants; he lets me be myself. Because he’s an actor and I’m an artist we’re both trying to express our unique voices in our own fields.
“He understands the importance of being individual and not just producing work that is a copy of something else.
“He is now a great supporter of my work and makes the effort to come and see me when I’m exhibiting in London.”
The admiration he has gained from the star is just another feather in the Glasgow-born artist’s cap.
Aged just 25 and back living in Glasgow, he is already winning an enviable reputation for himself as a contemporary figurative painter. He has exhibited alongside some of the greats of the international art scene, including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
Frank says he owes a big part of his success to the time he spent at the university, the only one in Britain to offer a fine arts and business BA degree course.
He said: “I owe my success to the university. It gave me the solid foundation and inspiration for becoming an artist.
“Huddersfield gave me the essential foundations to do my paintings and helped me develop my work, which is still drawn from my final year there.
“The achievements I have gained after leaving the university are more than some people who graduate from top institutes like the Royal College of Art.
“Having the talent is not enough to survive as an artist – you have to know how to use it. And this is where the university helped me, by teaching me how to promote and market myself.
“The staff were fantastic, and gave me the support and encouragement I needed to establish myself as an artist.’’
Since graduating his work, which sells for £2,000 a piece, has featured in several national art fairs and shows. He is now represented by the New York art dealer Michel Witmer, who has in the past sold works by Picasso, Van Gough and Andy Warhol.
In spite of his success Frank is determined not to forget Huddersfield and, like Patrick, champions it wherever possible.
He said: “Whenever I travel to exhibitions in places like London or New York I always emphasise that I am there because of Huddersfield.