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.
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.
‘I’m the kind of girl that things naturally happen to. When they don’t, I give them a push’.
Well! It’s not every day you see a candy pink Cadillac in Old Town that’s for sure. How come? The occasion of the unveiling of a blue plaque to commemorate someone that surely must rank as Swindon’s most famous daughter? None other than Diana Dors!
It’s really kinda odd. When I watched Diana Dors in films and TV when I was growing up who would’ve thought I’d end up living in the town that was her birthplace? I like that. I’ve always been something of a fan.
Dors was often given the epithet of the ‘British Marilyn Monroe’ – but I think that’s to do her an injustice. She was a fine actress who arguably never reached her full potential.
The plaque was unveiled by her son Jason Lake (from her final marriage to Alan Lake) and her granddaughter Ruby – who I fancy has a look of Diana about her.
Bust of Diana Dors
Here’s the car that serves as a mytonomy, well a Thunderbird and Ford Mustang too I guess, of the American Dream that was so incongruously parked on a street in Old Town today. Isn’t it amazing? How wonderful must it have been to drive around in that in the Hollywood sunshine? So, so cool. I’m so jealous. I’d love a ride in such a car.
David Bent, Russell-Cotes and a bender round Bournemouth
Well I say bender. It was more a sedate meander with Carole Bent (the fabulous wife 😉 ) around the wonderful Russell-Cotes museum, David’s exhibition there and beautiful Bournemouth on the best, brilliantly sunny and perfect day.
David is currently exhibiting at the Russell-Cotes museum so Carole kindly took me down there to visit as she had a meeting there. While she was busy doing important meeting stuff I was lucky enough to have a gander around this utter gem of a place. I’d never heard of it let alone been to it – and if you haven’t then you must! Preferably while David’s exhibition is still running because his art is wonderful and worth seeing always – but just generally too.
So now you get the pleasure of some of my characteristically out-of-focus photos – it’s my trademark okay?
And yes – I KNOW this blog is about Swindon not Bournemouth but David has lived here for eons now so he’s as much a Swindonian as I am. And he and Carole are involved in many Swindon things and this is his art and anyway – as I’ve said many times – there’s no point having a bloody blog if you can’t give a shout-out to friends. So here we are. 😉
In that five I included two songs by a talented young Swindon man by the name of Hitesh Mistry. But this post is dedicated entirely to Hitish and his newest song: ‘Higher’. He wants to get lots of views on it on his YouTube channel #obvs – so if you click on the link below and have a listen he’d be highly delighted I’m sure.
Hitesh lives in West Swindon and his videos are so far all made around Swindon – so if nothing else it’s quite fun seeing what you recognise.
15 years old and the son of Ash & Sheela, owners of the Eggelicious empire, Hitesh is the youngest member of the clan and has been writing songs since he was 11.
All of them support the family business in some way and Hitish is the fish marinader. Singer/songwriter and fish marinader. That’s some CV!
As well as flying solo Hitesh also plays in a band called The Tribe but his Youtube videos are all of him solo singing and playing.
This here is a little post to showcase the art work of Gill Thomas – a lovely friend of mine. And an actual born-Swindonian to boot! She’s travelled the world a bit to live and work but is now happily settled back in West Swindon.
I actually first met Gill a couple of Christmases back when she had a stall at Freshbrook Church Christmas market selling cards and prints of her artwork. I bought a couple intending to send them but loved them so much I ended up keeping them.
But recently, thanks to the mystery and power of social media, we’ve got to know each better hence this post. Well – if you can’t write about your friends then what’s the point of owning a blog huh?
Here’s a brief bio of Gill in her own words:
“Gill Thomas was born in the 20th century in Swindon. An only child – bright, sporty, articulate and creative. As an adult she was employed for many years in international marketing as a P.A. supporting those at the top of the totem pole in the UK, Dubai and the USA.
As the years rolled by, the sporty side of her nature gave way to artistic pursuits which included writing and complex embroidery. However, in 2004 a desire to paint “properly” overtook all else and she signed up for an evening class in watercolours. The flood gates opened, a budding artist emerged and now all her spare time is spent on nurturing that talent.
Contemporary Botanicals is her “thing” – flowers, fruit and vegetables in classic pose but also with a modern, colourful twist. In recent times, fur and feather have entered her life in the form of the quirky Just Animals series. These have been snapped up by a printing company and are available as greetings cards.
Gill’s artwork now graces homes from Scotland to Cornwall and further still in California. She paints in watercolours and acrylics, on paper, on canvas and most interestingly on vellum and these special pieces can last 1,000 years – antiques in the making.
Commissions are very welcome – a phone call to Gill can be the start of creating something unique for your home.”
Contacting and commissioning Gill
If you want to contact Gill to ask about any of her art – as she says,she does take commissions – her phone number is on her Facebook page see link below. She’s also recently started dabbling on the twitter sphere: @gillthom16
As you can see, even within her paintings of fruit and veg there are different styles. There are some that would be more suited to a country style kitchen and others that would work very well in a contemporary environment – kitchen or even restaurant.
And, if animals are your thing, Gill has some really quite delightful and fun animal paintings.
Just one example can be seen on the right but there’s more on the website.
Contacting and commissioning Gill
If you want to contact Gill to ask about any of her art – she does take one commissions– her phone number is on her Facebook page. She’s also recently started dabbling on the twitter sphere: @gillthom16
Much like the subject matter of this collection of eight paintings – refugees, migrants and people on the move generally – Movement 2000, by Swindon-based artist David Bent is looking for a home. One in which they can be viewed, absorbed and digested at length. All of which they certainly need and deserve.
Before I go any further, I should state that I’m in no way an art expert. I know nothing of the art world nor do I know anything about the discourse of art. But, as with a piece of music that either appeals to my ear or it doesn’t, so it is with art. It appeals to my eye or it doesn’t. And I’m not much interested in art for art’s sake – merely art that I like. And I DO like David’s art. Pretty much all of it. So there! Right, now I’ve got that off my chest we’ll move on.
But of course, as you’d expect from a prolific and talented artist, there’s more bristles in his paintbrush than that.
And his Movement 2000 works, two years in the making, are just one example.
I wouldn’t like to say that this collection is the most important or best work David has produced – who know what lies ahead? But nevertheless I reckon the term ‘Magnum Opus’ is an appropriate enough description for these works.
On a visit to David’s Open Studio I got a glimpse of this body of work and a sense of its importance to David. But it was just a glimpse – other visitors etc, etc. So David kindly invited me to his studio again to have a proper look at them and to tell me more about the collection.
So I learnt from David that it was in the late 1990s as we headed towards the millennium, that he was inspired, moved, driven even to create a major piece of work to celebrate and to mark the world’s calendars turning over into a new century.
He wanted these paintings to make a big visual statement. And they do – in every sense of the word ‘big’.
Choosing ‘Movement’ as the umbrella title for this group of paintings David was inadvertently prescient as around this time the Balkan/Yugoslav conflict was raging. And of course, wherever there is conflict there are refugees. People on the move seeking sanctuary.
And never were these paintings more relevant than they are today. Sixteen years later the world is seeing the greatest exodus of people possibly since Biblical times. And, interestingly enough, ‘The Christening Party’ features an obvious Biblical reference.
The Circle of life
I’m loathe to say much on what the paintings are ‘about’ as we each take different things from art. But I’m sure David won’t mind my saying that, although full of detail, they are also pretty easy to deconstruct. As far as I’m concerned that’s a virtue.
What goes around comes around and the circularity of the world and of life is, I think, central to these paintings. As is the notion that where we are in life is largely an accident of birth. ‘There but for the Grace of God go I’.
On a slighter lighter note I think it’s safe to say that planes, trains and automobiles – and ships – feature in these works also – though you might have to look for them. So there’s movement literally as well as metaphorically.
Conceived as an installation piece, these paintings demand that you spend some time with them. They work on more than one level for sure. Certainly the more you look at them then the more you see. Get close up and you see one thing – step back and you see another. Then once that ‘thing’ is seen you can’t stop seeing it.
With a broad geographical theme, they’re structured works, each of them running from right to left, then from left to right with a central focus and detail along the bottom of them. Like much of David’s work there’s lots of personal detail in them too. Himself as a teenager, his dad, his brother – people, places and things that have resonances for him are peppered throughout the paintings.
David’s ideal home for the works is a sort of rotunda with ten sides. Each of eight sides will house one painting, one side for information and the tenth side missing to form an entrance.
From the exterior it looks rather like a temporary shelter/a yurt like structure such as might be seen in refugee camps – as is fitting with the subject matter of the paintings with ‘Home Sweet Home’ above the door.
It has a central post with mirrors on allowing for a different perspective and a solar panel on the roof. I don’t think President Obama comes with the paintings though …
The pictures below of David’s model ideal home gives a better idea than me trying to describe it.
Aside from a period in 2009 when they were exhibited in Swindon’s Artsite building they’ve not left the studio.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing for these works about movement to do some moving of their own to a new home where they can be appreciated fully?