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Daughter’s pride at father’s artistic legacy on display at Glyndŵr University

MJ Boenisch with pic

3 December 2012

The daughter of a former Polish Army pole-vaulting champion whose work is featured in an art exhibition in Wrexham has spoken of her pride at seeing her father’s painting on public display 46 years after its creation.

Pig Iron, a 1966 painting by MJ Boenisch, is one of 27 works currently on display in Art and Industry, an exhibition at Glyndŵr University’s Oriel Sycharth Gallery.

Daughter Joy Burrough contacted the university from her home in the Netherlands after discovering the work was on public display.

Jan Boenisch, as he was known, settled in Wrexham in the late 1950s and became well-known locally for his drawings, paintings and sculptures.

Joy said: “My father was a very active member of Wrexham Art Club and was one of the driving forces behind the setting up of Wrexham Arts Centre (now Oriel Wrecsam).

“I know he would have been very proud and pleased to know that his art would continue to be shown after his death.”

Joy attended Convent School and then Grove Park school in Wrexham following her family’s move to the town.

Her father and Croatian mother met at a Polish Olympic training camp and married in Belgrade, after Jan’s escape from Poland  when the Germans invaded in 1939.They arrived in the UK separately.  Jan went into the Royal Artillery and fought as a major in the 81st West African Division in Burma.

It was in Burma that Jan started his career as a painter but from 1968 onwards he moved into sculpture. He died in 1984, aged 78.

“My father had been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember,” Joy recalls. “But after we moved to Wrexham he started doing oils. I think he felt that watercolours just didn’t capture the drama of the scenes in the foundries at Brymbo Steelworks, where he worked as catering manager for many years.

“He was basically self-taught but attended many classes by visiting artists. His first name Mieczyslaw was unpronounceable for British people so he became known as Ben to his friends. He was only really known as Jan, his second name, as an artist, and he signed all his works MJB.”

Tragically, Joy lost several of Jan’s paintings following a house fire in the Netherlands in 2001, but managed to retain some of his sculptures.

A book to accompany the exhibition is available to buy at our Bookshop and Artshop, at the Siop y Siswrn, and at Wrexham Tourist Information Centre. 

They can also be purchased online where signed copies are available for a limited time for just £4.99 www.glyndwr.ac.uk/orielsycharthgallery.

  • Art and Industry is on display at the Oriel Sycharth Gallery until Friday 14 December. The Gallery is open Mon-Fri 9.00am – 4.30pm.  For more information contact c.thorne@glyndwr.ac.uk or tel 01978 29330.
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