South Shields artist’s iconic works go back on show – in granddaughter’s business

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with one of the family paintings
owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with one of the family paintings

The work of a much-loved South Tyneside artist is back in bloom, courtesy of his flower-loving granddaughter.

As a child and young woman, Sue Slesser loved to watch her grandfather Alf O’Brien paint his distinctive seafront, back lane and rustic scenes.

(c) South Shields Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) South Shields Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Alf, of Roman Road, South Shields, died in 1988 but left behind scores of paintings which offer a unique snapshot of the town from a now-bygone era.

Many of those works are now housed with Sue and her mum Carol O’Brien, “whose home is like an art gallery”.

But when Sue decided to open a florist shop in Station Approach, South Shields, close to the town’s Metro station, she chose to make the premises a new home for some of her grandad’s paintings.

Now ‘O’brien’s Loft’ is to display many of those works on a revolving basis, so that customers picking up contemporary bouquets and floral tributes can also admire the work of a borough artist.

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with one of the family paintings

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with one of the family paintings

Sue, 48, said: “I’m not an artist but I’ve always loved plants and flowers, as does my mum Carol O’Brien, my late auntie Maureen was green-fingered too. I just thought about opening a nice flower shop in Shields and incorporate a bit of art in a different style.

“I remember granda really well. He spent much of his time on the seafront doing his paintings.

“I did want to incorporate an old brick wall-style in the shop because granda did a lot of artwork painting brick walls; it was a rustic style that he had in his own work. I had that style in my head.

“My mam has got a house full of granda’s paintings and I’ve got a house full.

“When he passed away we had a little exhibition at the Bede Gallery in Jarrow and sold a few, but we wanted to keep the majority in the family.

“They are given away for birthdays and Christenings and such, so the collection is large. My mam’s house in St Vincent Street is like an art gallery.

“I used to watch my granda paint and it was fascinating. I think he would be very proud of this venture. He had his own distinctive style and I like to think my flowers have a contemporary style with a rustic twist too.”

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with shop manager Hayley Waller

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with shop manager Hayley Waller

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with one of the family paintings

owner of O'briens Loft, Station Approach, Sue Slesser with one of the family paintings