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John Hyatt obituary | Art


Other lives

Derek Horton

My friend John Hyatt, who has died aged 65 after a long illness, was an artist, musician and educator.

John taught for many years at Manchester Metropolitan University, initially as head of fine art, from 1991, before being appointed professor in 1994. While there, he set up Miriad (Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design), since dissolved due to restructuring.

During his time there he lived in Rossendale, near Manchester. In 2016, he moved to Liverpool to work at Liverpool John Moores University, where he was professor of contemporary art in the school of art and design, establishing Art-Labs (artistic research and technologies laboratories) in 2019. He was still working at LJMU at the time of his death.

Inside and outside institutions, John continually sought to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. He liked to create academic environments that allowed for exploration and freedom, constantly encouraging collaboration among his students.

Festival, 2014, a painting by John Hyatt

He had a parallel musical career, notably as the lead singer and songwriter of the Three Johns, a post-punk band with a fanbase that expanded through regular John Peel sessions, several albums, national and international tours, and miners’ strike benefit gigs.

John’s art spanned the political and the fantastical, threaded through with eccentric humour, sometimes manifest in alter egos such as the aristocratic Sir Stuart Farquar RA or the ghostly Seymour Clearly. His first solo exhibition was Art Wars at Rochdale Art Gallery in 1984, and he went on to exhibit and curate in prestigious venues across the UK and around the world. It is typical of his approach to artmaking that his final exhibition was at Wirral University teaching hospital, where he was being treated.

John grew up in a suburb of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, the only child of Mary (nee Windrim), a school cook and Ron, a lorry driver. He excelled at Wolverhampton grammar school and went on to study fine art at Leeds University, graduating in 1981. Teaching work began almost immediately, initially at Rochdale College of Art, and in 1988 the award of the Henry Moore printmaking fellowship at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University) opened up new opportunities.

Always mischievous and never short of wit and wisdom, his optimism, creative energy and generosity knew no bounds. He wanted better lives for all and worked towards that as teacher, artist, researcher, writer, musician, or any of the labels we might use but which he always refused to be limited by. Over the past two years, he had suffered with recurrent head and neck cancer.

In 1983 he met Liz Rodgers in the Faversham pub in Leeds, and they married three years later. She and their children, Tom and Elizabeth, survive him.



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