First of all, this post is an opportunity to share this article from Swindon Link Magazine about Ken White.
Aside from that, it’s an opportunity to share a few photographs of Ken’s work. In my recently published book, Secret Swindon, I made a big effort to convey that Swindon’s cultural and creative present is as rich as its cultural and creative past. Many people/entities/artists contribute to Swindon’s varied cultural landscape as the recent Swindon Open Studios even will testify. And one of whom is Swindon born Ken.
‘Ken White: Painter not artist
That’s his description of himself not mine. He’s emphatic on the point. Yet, however you describe him his talent is indisputable.
A born Swindonian, Ken had the great good fortune to get what you’d call ‘a big break’. First though, like so many young men in Swindon, at the tender age of fifteen saw him enter the Works (the 3rdgeneration of his family to go ‘inside’) as a rivet-hotter. Escaping that role, he began his artistic career with sign-writing and stenciling numbers on carriages in the Works. During this period Ken went to evening classes at Swindon Art College to study ‘O’ and A ‘Level art with the intention of becoming a full-time artist … ‘ For the rest – buy the book! 😉
Ken’s portfolio is a wonder to behold – the just-passed Open Studios is the ideal time to view it.
When researching for Secret Swindon I visited Ken and spent ages poring over his output from over the years. His collection of posters designed for Swindon events back in the day are an exhibition in themselves – never mind the rest. Here’s a small few that didn’t get used in Secret Swindon:
Ken White’s famed Red Lady emblem for Virgin Atlantic
Poster for the unveiling of Carleton Attwood’s ‘The Watchers’ at Toothill village centre
Poster for old GWR Railway museum
7th July 2017
I do like share a bit of good news on this blog listeners. And this is certainly that.
Now if it were left to me I’d have a place in Swindon’s art collection for dozens of Swindon artists. But until that’s possible it’s great that, in addition to works by the fabulous Ken White, both Creative Wiltshire and Swindon Borough Council have acquired works by David Bent. Because they both absolutely deserve to be there. So hurrah!
David Bent: https://swindonian.me/category/artscultureheritage/david-bent/
Ken White: https://swindonian.me/category/artscultureheritage/ken-white/
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: http://swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MuseumandArtGallery/
Swindon Borough Council are delighted to announce their most recent acquisitions to the Collections via the Creative Wiltshire project
‘These new works include a stunning landscape painting and prints by local artist David Bent. The painting, Beach House West of Looe, from David’s Landscape Geometry series will go on display from 19 July until 18 November as part of ‘The Lie of the Land exhibition’, which explores Modern British Landscapes from the Swindon Collection. This exhibition will also feature artists such as Richard Long, Mary Fedden, Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell.
The Museum and Art Gallery has also obtained two prints from his innovative Aerobot photo collage collection which were first exhibited at the nearby Royal International Air Tattoo. David is credited as leading a new movement in modern aviation art.
This work has been purchased by the Creative Wiltshire project, which aims to acquire works by creative people across Swindon and Wiltshire.
The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and also recently secured a work by Swindon artist Ken White for the Swindon Collection as well as ceramics by Sasha Wardell, Trevor Chaplin and Patricia Volk, paintings by David Rolt, and prints by Howard Hodgkin and Joe Tilson.
Creative Wiltshire has also purchased David’s work (including books, a box set of Movement 2000 and prints) for the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre and said “We are delighted that Swindon has acquired these wonderful works by David Bent. David is a talented and popular artist who has such a strong connection with Swindon and the surrounding area. It has been a pleasure working with David to select the works for Swindon and for the History centre and we feel they provide a fitting tribute to David’s long career. We hope visitors will enjoy discovering his work in forthcoming exhibitions.”
David said: “I am proud to have my work represented in the prestigious Swindon collection, sitting alongside works created by a number of great artists that have inspired and influenced me. I am equally pleased that the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre have chosen to acquire a number of pieces.”
For further information please contact Nicki Western, Marketing Manager, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, 01793 466560 or email@example.com‘
David Bent lives and works in Swindon. His long career has taken him all over the world. Born in Dover, he has travelled extensively. His art shows the influences of the places he has visited, as well as his fascination with current affairs. In recent years he has been strongly associated with the Red Arrows, who have inspired a number of paintings within his Art of Flight series. David was recently awarded the rare distinction of Honorary Companionship of the Royal Aeronautical Society in tribute to his work. He is the first artist in 30 years to be awarded this.
David Bent Studio: http://davidbentstudio.com
Disco and Diva Bot
There’s a nice blog here about David’s aerobots by Ray Kurzweils now Google technical director.
Spirited machines: The robots of acclaimed high tech artist David Bent – Here’s an extract:
Question: The Aerobots series is a departure for you. What was your inspiration?
David Bent: I am inspired and led to a certain extent by my general interest in science and technology, but nature and the human condition are also big influences on me. As a practicing artist, I always aim to infuse my work with the power of personal observation, skill and insights.
For me the relationship between Art, Science and Mathematics can be described as a drawn circle with a small gap at the end. Art is at one end of the open circle and science at the other. They are very close if you are prepared to jump the gap, if not you have to travel all the way around the circle and they become a long way apart. I like to jump the gap.’
Creative Wiltshire is a five year project which started in 2015 and aims to acquire work by creative people from Swindon and Wiltshire to fill significant gaps in the collections across Wiltshire.
Wiltshire Local Studies, based at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, received £178,000 HLF Collecting Cultures grant towards the five year project totalling £213,550 and materials are being acquired by accredited museums in the county of Wiltshire and Borough of Swindon, including Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and the Salisbury Museum.
20 January 2017
The Mural Men: Ken White and David Bent
I am the mural man, I come from far away and I can paint – yes I can paint. What can you paint – I can paint murals!
‘It’s a small world’. A cliché? Yup. But true. And listeners it doesn’t get much truer than this!
In the early days of this blog I devised a list of things to celebrate about Swindon. And on that list I placed Ken White. A son of Swindon, Ken has made his mark on the world literally and figuratively with his artistic talent.
Famed for his murals and for being the creator of Virgin airline’s red lady emblem Ken has far more bristles to his brush than that. You can find out a bit more about Ken here: https://swindonian.me/2013/07/13/ten-things-i-like-about-swindon-no-5-ken-white-swindons-mural-man/
Read more about Ken’s murals here: http://www.kenwhitemurals.co.uk/home/
Now, at the time I was writing about Ken I knew nothing of the existence in Swindon of David Bent. Had I done I would certainly have included him and his art on my celebratory list.
David is a Born again Swindonian like me – funnily enough I think we’ve both been here around the same number of years.
David too is a talented and renowned artist being particularly well-known for his aviation art. Though he too, like Ken, has many brushes in many paint pots. Here’s a link to a couple of the posts on this blog concerning David: https://swindonian.me/2014/09/24/david-bent-choosing-swindon/ and: https://swindonian.me/2015/11/02/movement-2000-art-collection-seeks-home/
I’m fortunate in recent years to have got to know David, and his fabulous wife Carole, very well. And it was on a recent visit to David’s studio – Swindon Open Studios maybe? – anyway – that I learned that he too had been a mural painter back in the day.
In a wonderful bit of symmetry that life, the universe and everything (42) is full of it turns out there was a time when, unknown and unbeknownst to each other, they were painting murals in London with only a street or two between them. David was working as a youth worker specialising in art project work and Ken was working on one of his famous commissions for Richard Branson – he of the Virgin empire. As Carole herself said, it’s not impossible that they drank in the same pubs.
And now here they are, living in the same town, still painting. Though no muriels sadly. That said – if anyone is offering I’ve got a garden wall crying out…
The image below shows an article in a 1979 issue of The Telegraph featuring both David Bent and Ken White painting their murals in London at the same time. Like I said – it’s a small world. Albeit with big murals. And pots and pots of pots of paint.
David Bent & Ken White The Telegraph 1979
See more of David’s murals – and explore his other art work here: http://davidbentstudio.com/gallery/retrospective/murals.html
So two mural men, two world-class artists in one town. One born and bred here. One choosing here. Either way, what’s not to celebrate about that?
17th September 2016
Swindon: it’s not as bad as you think
It’s funny how ‘things’ happen really. How at-first-glance-unrelated incidents become related…
Last night I had a lodger from Air BnB – just for the night – visiting Swindon for the first time. He was a very charming Syrian chap who’s been in England for 10 years or so. He lives and works in London as a university lecturer and was full of nothing but affection and gratitude to our country for the opportunities it’s afforded him. I say this as background but I do think it’s kinda relevant.
Because he then went on to say that, what little bit of Swindon he’d seen, he’d really liked. He commented that everyone he spoke to was lovely – not like in London. He liked where I lived (West Swindon), he went to Lydiard Park and loved that. He even thought the West Swindon Centre was nice. Which leads me to the next connection…
Today I went to the autumn fayre at the gorgeous Christ Church where I happened to pick up a copy of Swindon Heritage’s autumn magazine. On getting home I picked up the magazine and it fell open on an article called ‘Meet the man with the Plan’ – an interview between Graham Carter and Hadrian Ellery-Van Dekker – a name on a par in the awesomeness stakes with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Which is probably rather fitting if you think about it.
Anyroad up – Mr HVD ( I thought about writing Mr VD and swiftly thought again! #awks) is the director of the new museum and art gallery. In the course of the article Mr HVD is quoted as saying:
‘There is a great cultural scene here in Swindon, but I have noticed a tendency in people who live here to put the boot in when they talk about the town. It seems to be a default setting. People categorise by what it isn’t rather than what it is. They tell me it isn’t Bath, and it isn’t Oxford and it isn’t Reading. But it has a hell of a lot to recommend it, so I think it is time to start thinking about what it has got going for it, not what they think is missing.’
And oh boy is he right!. They do. And I’m so, so tired of it. So I say: Thank. Bloody. God.
Mr HVD can I shake you by the hand? Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s EXACTLY what I’ve been trying to say for the past 3 LONG years of bashing away at this bloody blog. So it’s VERY nice to hear it from someone else. Vindication is mine!
Swindon is NOT a shit pit. Swindon is NOT a crap town. And I should know – I come from one that actually made it into the Crap Towns book. There’s been two versions of that book (see image) and Swindon features in neither. Which is no surprise to me.
So where does all of this connect to last night’s lodger? Well:
- Sometimes things are relative. I love Swindon because I come from a place with nothing. And when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing. Swindon has Barbury Castle and Liddington Hill – we had slag heaps. And emhysema. And there’s probably an element of that with my lodger. Relativity – not emphysema. But also…
- … if, as he did, you approach Swindon with an open heart and an open mind she will ‘reveal’ herself to you. A bit like Brigadoon. (;look it up) And it’s clear that Mr HVD is well aware of Swindon’s charms.
A man of intelligence and insight evidently! And I wish him every success despite my misgivings about the location of the new art gallery/museum.
Location, Location, Location
Now there’s much contention about the location of the new art gallery/museum combo. I won’t lie – I’m not convinced about where it’s intended to be – but I AM convinced that this guy has the vision that Swindon needs. And that matters above all.
In the aforementioned article Mr HVD has this to say on the matter: ‘This is another thing I’ve noticed about Swindon. People think it has to be either/or. They think it’s the town centre or the ‘Mechanics’. But Swindon is big enough to have ‘and’ and not either/or.’ And he’s not wrong – it is.
All of which segues nicely into another point I’d like to make while I’ve got your virtual ear.
AT LAST the museum and art gallery has acquired a painting by Swindon artist Ken White. Get the flipping bunting out because it’s not before time. Ken is a son of Swindon – both literally and figuratively and still is. He absolutely, no question about it, deserves his place there.
See also Creative Wiltshire: https://creativewiltshire.com/2016/09/07/ken-white-swindon-artist/
But there’s another who I think deserves to be there too. Well – if it were left to me I’d have every Swindon artist in the place but that wouldn’t be altogether realistic – if not noble.
But seriously, if Swindon is big enough for the Mechanics’ Institute and the new museum/art gallery then isn’t the latter also big enough for Ken White AND David Bent?
It doesn’t have to be either/or!
As someone that chose Swindon, as someone that involves himself in countless community activities and Open Studios. As someone that’s lived here for a good 20 years or so shouldn’t he be there too?
And apart from any of that he can paint quite well! 😉 Oh – and he has a good line in an anecdote it has to be said. And if that were a criterion for entry into museums he’d be in Tate Britain at the very least.
#justsaying Here endeth the lesson.
NB: When news of Swindon’s proposed new gallery/museum hit the media they saw fit to turn what should have been a positive news story into yet more Swindon bashing. I wrote a response to that at the time and this is it: https://swindonian.me/2015/08/19/the-ugliest-town-in-england-really/
To read the full article: ‘Meet the man with the Plan’ buy the autumn edition of Swindon Heritage magazine.
Swindon Heritage magazine: http://www.swindonheritage.com
The Mechanics’ Institute Trust: https://mechanics-trust.org.uk
David Bent Studio: http://davidbentstudio.com
Ken White: http://www.kenwhitemurals.co.uk
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: http://swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk
Know your art from your elbow with the Swindon 175 Art trail
5th June 2016- 3rd July 2016
From the Swindon Art’s Trail website: ‘The Swindon Arts Trail will feature some of the very best art Made in Swindon, displayed at venues across the town. … Many of the artists featured draw inspiration from our industrial and urban heritage (Ken White, David Bent, David Robinson, Tim Carroll, Mark Worrall, Juliet Wood, The Visual Drop). Others highlight the natural beauty and open spaces to be found across Swindon (Beverley Greig, Caroline Day, Terry Humphries, Susan Carr).’
This listeners I’m really rather excited about. I might even have an art attack! 😉
Some of the artists featured in this art trail have been written about previously on this here Born again Swindonian blog. I own prints and other items created by a number of them but others in this list are unknown to me so I’m looking forward to discovering their work.
I’ll tell you now of some of them I know and those I miss I’ll beg your pardon
Ken White: When I first set up this blog Ken White was one of the ‘things’ I featured in my 10 things to celebrate about Swindon. Ken is famed for his murals, all but one of the Swindon ones sadly now gone. He’s also the creator of Virgin’s iconic red lady emblem and a huge body of work related to Swindon and its GWR past. Indeed Ken began his working life ‘inside’ – as working in the GWR Works was referred to.
Caroline Day and the Town Garden’s Artist Group: I got to know about Caroline’s work and about the group as a whole when it started appearing on my Facebook feed. Caroline kindly wrote me a lovely goest post back in 2014: https://swindonian.me/2014/02/28/old-town-gardens-art-work-swindon-living-the-dream/
Tim Carroll: I own a couple of pieces of Tim’s work. One that I think of as swimmers – it’s a sculptural sort of a piece -and the other is one of his 100 views of Swindon: the David Murray John Tower.
From the Swindon Advertiser: “… It all started with a vague notion of producing something completely different from his usual work, which often includes classically inspired themes or great leaps of imagination. He also quite fancied working outdoors.
Tim’s modus operandi is to make meticulously detailed drawings of street scenes in his sketchbook – which takes an average of three-and-a-half hours – before producing colourful acrylic or water colour versions back at his home studio.
He originally set himself a year to complete the project but it has taken much longer than anticipated.
Now he’s aiming for two years and two months – just in time for the 175 Swindon Art Trail which will feature several key local artists displaying images of the town at various venues to celebrate 175 years since the opening of the railway works and the beginning of modern Swindon.”
David Bent:I’ve only got to know David more recently. He’s very well-known as an aviation artist and that body of his work is the main thrust of this post: https://swindonian.me/2015/08/20/david-bent-refreshed/ It features a nice little film clip of him talking about the beauty of aircraft design.
He does though of course have a huge body of other work – notably his Movement 2000 collection – painted in 1999/2000 as an artistic response to the Balkan wars and the refugee crisis that created. And never was a thing more apposite than now.
Here’s two of his Movement 2000 pictures:
The Christening party
See more in the post about David’s Movement 2000.
Working with the Harbour Project – The Harbour Project, in their art sessions, are exploring David’s work – in particular his use of symbolism in his “Movement 2000” paintings collection.
The hope is that they’ll exhibit some of the art work produced, alongside David’s, when he exhibits in Swindon Dance as part of refugee week, also in collaboration with Swindon175 and the Made In Swindon Art Trail. For more about Dave and his work, visit http://davidbentstudio.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Davidbentstudio/?fref=ts
That’s a really fabulous and exciting initiative and something for us all to celebrate as well as the art trail as a whole. In answer to the question: ‘What’s Swindon got in a the way of art?’ – rather a bloody lot frankly!
The Harbour Project:
“At The Harbour Project we welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers in Swindon.
To those who’ve risked their lives, families and homes fleeing war and persecution, we provide friendship and hope for a future. With this purpose, we’ve been working tirelessly since the Kosovo crisis in 2000. Today, we’re aiding people from across the world.
We became a registered charity in 2003 when a small team of staff committed resources to running daily drop-in services, Monday to Friday. Whether it’s recreational activities, assistance with legal processes or help with social welfare, we’re still giving all we can to new visitors … “
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SwindonHarbour/?fref=ts
“Swindon Dance is located in the heart of Swindon, where from its base in the town’s former Victorian Town Hall, it has for over three decades been a leading innovator in Dance Development in the UK.
Each year thousands of people of all ages and abilities Take Part in a comprehensive range of quality classes, project and performances. For many this will be a leisure pursuit and a fun pathway to health and well being but for many others Swindon Dance has provided a step into an amazing career in dance … “
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/swindondancetemporary/?fref=ts
Tuesday 7th January 2014 Hello listeners. I’ve posted on here many times about the wealth of artistic and creative talent in this town. It runs the gamut from Ken White to David Bent both of whom are artists with an international reputation in their fields. But there’s just about everything imaginable in between in Swindon’s artistic cornucopia with the activities of the people at Artsite Ltd and the Old Town Gardens artist group to name but two. But of course I’m not the only person in Swindon that takes an interest in and writes about the talent of the town. The good people of Swindon Heritage Magazine also beat the drum. Thus this post is really by way of sharing a blog post from their website – you’ll see the link below. As they point out, it’s a crying shame that none of Ken’s much sought after work is included in the Borough’s otherwise very fine art collection. Hence they have now fulfilled an ambition to own two of his works which they intend to put to good use. But you can read more of that in their blog post: When heritage meets art – Swindon Heritage.