This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > > Charles Devus

The Aesthetics of Justin Sane

Justin Sane is finally taking shape. It has been dream since I was very young to tackle a graphic novel and it is finally coming into being. I owe so much to my friends and most especially to Simon Powell of Creative Futures.

There is an essential dynamic to this format especially if colour is an essential component. I am using a conventional storyboard format with some ten to twelve frames per page, an average of twenty to twenty four frames per double page spread.

(1) The first task, after the story is reasonably clear in the author’s mind is to ensure that the frames, the little rectangular boxes in which the drawings are to appear have an aesthetically pleasing relationship to each other and will serve to guide the on a subtle journey from top left of page one to the bottom right of page two. So even if the reader picks up a book with fifty pages of empty rectangles they will still feel that the experience was somehow satisfactory.

(2) Then there is the matter of colour. The placing of colour and its aesthetic is equally important. Again the misapplication of colour can be detrimental to the overall effect. The eye of the viewer wants to be guided so that the placing of various colours needs to effect a balance of dynamics and harmonies both within the various individual pictures, but within each page and equally each double page spread. Again the eye must be guided from top left to bottom right of each page and each pair of pages.

Cedric, who has come to the fore as the main protagonist in Justin Sane, is a little green alien child. He is green and wears a blue coat with a red scarf. Justin himself sports a yellow frock coat with black facings and top hat to match. There are frequent appearances of bright red triple decker buses whilst much of the cityscape is rendered in the muted tones of masonry.

(3) The third factor and that which must come first of all is the dialogue. What the characters actually say is subservient to the image. Of course there must be a story and that must come before anything else. Dialogue is vital but if the story cannot live by its imagery there is little point in drawing it at all. I am seeking poetics in what the characters say and how they express it.

Simon has been a fantastic help and Justin takes his hat off to him. I am afraid my mind works in an order all its own and I had to establish of the features noted above before I could plod on with the whole enterprise and it must have looked at times as though I was not entirely heeding Simon’s wise words. This has been far from the case. Simon has wanted to see a clearly defined story which is easily read by anyone. This has not always been the case. I showed a crucial couple of pages to Colleen where Justin Takes Cedric to work with him and Colleen thought he was going to school. On closer inspection with my head un-addled with the doing of it all, I had to conclude that’s what it looked like.

I am working on the dialogue now and looking forward to seeing Simon for our penultimate mentoring session. By then he will have a story to read because I have been working back to front contrary to his advice Justin Sane is still not as clear a piece of storytelling as it could be. However it has gained one of the things I so dearly wanted for it and that is it conveys something of the atmosphere of the Rowfontine, the city that has been growing in my head for the best part of forty years.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 24 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 24 February 2012

Some further storyboarding for the graphic novel: Justin Sane

Justin Sane is a detective in the Human Bureau in Rowfontine. The Rowfontine is the magnificent capital of a mildly decadent empire of the same name. Justin Sane does not exist on the prosaic streets of the city, but only in the comic book named in his honour and set amongst its streets.

He is an aesthete and a bon vivant and could be taken as a decadent except that like most people tagged with that label he has an awful lot of innate integrity. His wife, Justine Seine, is an insatiable force of nature. She is only half human with a primal drive for procreation and pops out babies during breakfast. These are nurtured for the briefest of times and carried in a reinforced pram until storks can be summoned to take them away.

One little mite is preserved. Cedric is Justine’s little green alien child whom Justin loves as his own. One day, when the city wakes and busily commutes, Cedric is awakened at nine am by Chubbles, the family butler. It is a red letter day, for Cedric is off to the office with his Dad. At breakfast Justine pops out an obligatory child, consumes a large brandy and flees to the garage, and is off in her turquoise convertible. Her progress is nearly interrupted by an old man in a cart and is temporarily so by a sailor strolling past the gates.

Meanwhile Justin and Cedric are off in a leisurely fashion to Kronprinz Humphrey Square where the Human Bureau is situated. Justin is soon called to the office of Sir Albemarle Wheat Hampstead, his immediate superior. Something rum is afoot in the Rowfontine. A coalition of the city’s worst bad people are up to no good. The city's detectives are ranged against a desperate crew of film noire villains.

Cedric, who has been banished to antechamber mis-hears the briefing and fears that his Father is in disgrace and that his career is on the line. Back in the office Cedric purloins the file and disappears on a quest of his own to solve the case. Leaving the building, he jumps aboard one of the city’s famous triple decker buses and is off to join his friends Thing-Thing and Jeremy in an adventure.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 4 December 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 5 December 2011

Over Cream Grove - a play in the making...

Why must stories come to be? I am currently engaged in a number of projects. Justin Sane is paramount at the moment but there is plenty of writing. The Music of Division is one, and Mad Juffry and Racruarn Light is another. Last year on a train journey to Cardiff, all the people I had known in Wales and all their adventures coalesced into a play. I began to write it and continued writing whilst I was there and on the journey home I realised that I had known so many interesting people when I lived there, that I did not have to invent very much.

Over Cream Grove
In the West of Wales on the Cardigan coast just inland from Cardigan Bay is the small town of Cream Grove. It has a Welsh name but is always referred to by its English appellation. It is not by chance that the celebrated writer Owen Deluge comes from this town and it is no accident that he is lured back there, to be fated and honoured. Despite being the town of his birth Cream Grove bares little love for Owen Deluge and the feeling is mutual.

He has bared the soul and the sores of the people of the town to the wide world. He is the author of the now famous play 'Over Cream Grove'. The title is no coincidence. Nor are elements of its style, for it could not but acknowledge the existence of Dylan Thomas and Under Milk Wood... for Llaregub lies but twenty miles away.

The Beginning, a brief extract from a work in progress

NARRATER: Mervin Jenkins
grocer and neophyte
from chapel shade
and frosted glass
to the sensual faith
of soft women
to Weetabix and cold tea
and greets the sun of morning
on an uncharacteristic day.

It is an unaccustomed day
for the sun beats down softly
Mediterranean in its balm,
unlike the slate grey,
fate days
laden with depression clouds
suicide wards
of weather
in innumerable shades 
of battleship lead.

Mervin Jenkins
shuts up his sloping house
staggers up the hill
staggered again
one door nearly opposite
The Sea Eagle Inn where
Poyer Grimwade
tottered to his prestigious car
the previous night.

Fumbling for the keys
befuddled and unfit for locomotion
as sergeant Centipede watches
from his waiting vehicle,
its radio squeaking
static and white noise.
Notebook and breathalyser
ready by his side,
hand scanner
and database at hand
like the tools
of a Torquemada,
to avenge himself for playground wrongs
on sneering Grimwade
with his council seat.

Prefect likes
and tuck shop spiv
who might have been a buccaneer
in a different age.

Poyer Grimwade
former miner,
and stand up comedian,
rotator of the rotary club
and the Red Dragon lodge,
has made disreputable good
and with his treasures
resides now in
grey Achrimanes House,
the medieval pile
that stares in challenge
over the Mill Pond
to Crème Castle
on the hill.

Sergeant centipede,
milk monitor,
long days gone
in the old school now
when little bottles
in their crates
socialist and beneficent.
Angharin Bevin’s gift
to bones and teeth,
till Maggie Thatcher
snatched them away.

AMANDA: Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher!

NARRATOR: And young Centipede stood
by the congealing milk
with his sticky-out ears
yearning for authority and respect.

He sat at the top table in the class
where Mrs. Campbell
with the iron bun,
who once had a bun in the oven
who grew up to be an inmate
of Parkhurst and the Scrubs,
transsexual and transgender.
He, now she, resides
in Brighton by the sea
and goes by the name of Andrea.

That broke the stony heart
of the mistress till she died.

The town must honour its most famous son and he must return from exile in Brighton to the insular world of Cream with its gossip and its ghosts. For there are ghosts here, both corporeal and otherwise. When Owen alights from the train at Carmarthen he is touched on the shoulder by a certain man. Owen becomes as an illumined torched touching everyone he encounters in the days that follow.

Owen meets many old friends and some not so old lovers. He receives his begrudged award at The Welsh Museum of Sheep. He returns home through London passing through Clapham Junction early on the morning of July 7th 2005. Meanwhile, Dai Pigglet, one time swineherd to Councillor Poyer Grimwade and bondsman to Randy Knob, fails to obliviate his pointless life.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 14 November 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 5 December 2011

A Child of Our Time

I suppose I owe a lot to fate. My parents were both artists. My mother was abusive and my father ran away in a cloud of vainglorious egomania. I learned a lot about Wagner, Nietzche and Platonic dialogue and how to fear childhood. It was easier to dream of growing up for then I could fulfill my father’s brief to be an artistic genius. Not too much of a genius mind you, but just enough of one to realise and appreciate my father’s godhead.

In short I was raised to be the tortured artist and it is a rule I have attained on realising, that it is merely the template set for me. The irony is that the only way I can escape it and all its ramifications is to live it until the role has no meaning. The battle for myself is to be fought against myself and the field is to be the myriad of uncompleted projects that hold the key to the gently rotting past.

The Uncompleted
There is a lot to do; mainly written projects. But one that seems to have caught the popular imagination - least ways among those I have shown it to - is an on-going graphic novel called Justin Sane. He is a detective in the, (to me), un-fictional city of Rowfontine.

I had always wanted to do a graphic novel since reading Herge’s Tintin books as a child. The irony is that despite all my father’s grandiose lectures on art history it was my mother's influence, primarily, that I drew encouragement from. Since 1992 I have filled notebooks with abstract pictures and little characters who seemed to attach themselves to stories connected with Justin Sane. Tintin seems to have inherited the role of father of Justin Sane.

Mars Ascending
During the scorching summer of 2003 I became homeless and ended up living in the YMCA in Brighton. That October, with Mars looming ominously in the Western sky, I filled a little blue notebook with several hundred characters and vehicles. It was feverish and they would not stop coming. The following summer I did a children’s picture book illustration course and was able to storyboard the idea into some form of structure. However I was given the Marlborough Theatre to play with in the autumn, which was such a wonderful opportunity that I couldn’t let it pass.

In January 2007, after returning from Tunisia, I answered an ad from someone wanting designs for T-shirts. I sweated blood on a little drawing of the Justin Sane character, his little son Cedric and his two friends Thing-Thing and Jeremy. It was worth the effort for at last I had the definitive definition of the characters. I made a princely $50.00.

Another little irony was that they could not use the image for technical reasons but they did use another image I supplied called Dogely-Wogely, a little doodle of a dog done in the graphics package in Microsoft Windows Word.

Creative Futures and Disability Arts Online
This year thanks to Simon Powell of Creative Future, who has kindly consented to mentor the project, and to Colin Hambrook of DAO, things are really taking off and I am looking to develop the storyboards into complete scenarios.

I’ve also made contact with Outside In at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and have been invited to show my work on the November 3. I shall keep you posted on how things work out.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 26 October 2011

Last modified by Anonymous, 6 November 2011

A forthcoming book with Gallery Cru...

When I exhibited at the Impact Art Fair last May and was invited to Berlin I was also persuaded to appear in a book on artists and their work. The Berlin invite soon dissipated into nebulous muddle but the idea of the book prevailed. Unfortunately I had forgotten all about it. I was soon reminded and advised to make myself available to be photographed for the forthcoming volume.

When my buzzer rang on 26 August, last. I initially thought it was Southern Electric with whom I was embroiled in a legal battle following extortionate charges that racked up to £400. Their attempt to take me to court collapsed spectacularly when I chose to defend it. Their representative deserted the company and has not been seen by them since, though it has been rumoured he is currently at HM Prison Lewes, though whether in the capacity of inmate or custodian who can tell.

Smile Please
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from Kolja from the Gallery Cru in Berlin. I had not seen Kolja since Impact and he had brought with him Jo Goetz, a photographer. I showed them some of my portfolios including Justin Sane, the prints from Mercurius Moronicus, my recent Big Issue featured picture and the Red on Black pen and ink drawings of the same family; some erotica and digital paintings and the map of the city of Rowfiontine I am completing for Simon Powell of Creative Future as the backdrop for the Justin Sane project.

Jo took a great number of photographs. Me drawing. Me playing blues guitar and the charango and me posing by the seafront. They are masterful works. The idea is that I am to feature in a book along with other artists. Each one will receive a selection of photographs, three of which are to be chosen by the artist who will then manipulate the image to their own desire. These doctored works will then feature alongside the originals. Jo showed me a previous photobook complied around the same idea.

We spent about two hours at this before they went off to visit Russell Jones, another Creative Future foot soldier and one of those whose work was featured at the Impact Art Fair.

Justin Sane storyboards
Jo despatched an envelope counting A4 colour prints of the pictures for me to select three. I did this and the three pictures of me duly turned up measuring 60 x 80cm. These are very flattering but I’m a miniaturist, happiest telling stories in picture and had already decided to work digitally on scanned versions of the originals. I am planning to use the graphics I create from the photos as backdrops for Justin Sane storyboards.

Watch this space for further details!

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 2 October 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 5 December 2011

The Ballad of Justin Sane

Back in May, I had a couple of pieces at the Creative Future stand at the Impact Art Fair and I was gratified that my work created a fair bit of interest. The story behind the series from which these pictures are drawn is an epic in its own right and would probably make a good novel, but that’s another tale.

Simon Powell of Creative Future has been of invaluable help to me this year and was instrumental in getting a piece of mine published in The Big Issue's Outsider Art edition in May. He has also been gracious enough to mentor me in what is proving to be a painfully productive period in my life.

For instance, Simon has been nurturing my embryonic graphic novel about a character called Justin Sane, his little alien son Cedric and his friends. The action takes place in Rowfontine, the capital city of a country of the same name.

I have been working on the Rowfontine project for well over 30 years. It started as the classic vehicle of the abused child; a fantasy in which to hide. Like a lot of things created out of psychological necessity, it hid a wealth of painful and obscene things under cover of the soothing balm of a make believe romantic history.

What started as a Christmas gift of an Airfix model ship became a navy. The navy required a nation. And the nation, being young and traumatised, required a history, preferably a military one. From there it became a wargame which gradually expanded into a complex culture.

Rowfontine had its own monthly newspaper, its own play called The Music of Division and a whole host of other things. What it really wanted however was a comic book in which to show people what it actually looked like.

I came up with a lot of crap ideas over the years along these lines, all of which thankfully died a death. Then in October 2003, when I was homeless and living in the YMCA in Brighton, something happened over which I seemed to have no control.

I started feverishly drawing little characters, aliens, animals and vehicles in a little A10 blue notebook. I started on the 2nd of October and by the 3rd of November I had over 300 of them. But what to do with them? I felt the muses had called in no uncertain terms and I had a genuine duty to my new extended family.

Somewhere along the line, my dull brain thought of combining these characters with the Rowfontine. Of course the problem is that the Rowfontine, with all its architectural characteristics, existed only in my head so I would have to represent it largely without a model to draw from since my draughtsmanship is not anywhere near the standard I would like. This presents a problem.

Hence my homework, to complete a map of the city I had commenced early in 2003 and had bottled out of finishing. But that is my fear and my trauma, finishing projects, so it is proving a rewarding but increasingly difficult task as I approach the end of it. Though of course the end, in this case, is just the beginning.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 7 September 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 5 December 2011

No news from Berlin...

In my first blog entry, I said that one of the things I would do would be to track whatever came of the offer by the Galleri Cru in Berlin to host an exhibition of my work in Germany, and of the invitation I got to go there in July 2011.

I did go to Germany, but that had already been arranged, and I spent a fraught week at Borgenhouzen in the middle of the Teutenburg forest in May.

As I had not heard anything from Berlin I chased them up via every medium save semaphore. I emailed and phoned and something else probably. Eventually I got a reply in which the invitation seems to have been forgotten and saying that any exhibition would happen next year.

I sent them 14 thumbnails of the family of work which had featured in The Big Issue Outsider Art edition and at the Impact Art Fair in May but to date have had no acknowledgement. Creative Future found a similar silence from the same quarter regarding other artists who were represented at Impact about whom Galeri Cru were enthusiastic.

Galeri Cru had also been keen to come to Brighton and photograph me as an artist as part of a German artist’s work and will be arriving in Brighton on August 28th. The idea is that she will photograph me and I will take a copy of the image and distort it, thus creating my own work. I did something similar with photographs of some of the poets of Poets Cornered, a poetry group in Hove, when I edited New Moon Rising, an anthology of their work. 

I will await developments.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 29 August 2011

Last modified by Anonymous, 13 September 2011

April is the Cruellest Month... Charles visits The Titanic exhibition at 02, London

When Colleen suggested visiting the Titanic exhibition in London I felt uneasy about the idea despite having an interest in the period and of ships and the sea. I don’t think I would have gone had it been for her.

The exhibition is currently being staged at the O2 Centre in North Greenwich. The entrance price is in keeping with White Star Line pricing policy of the period at £15.00 a head. One ingenious touch was to present visitors with a facsimile boarding pass in the name of one of a genuine passenger. Colleen had a first class docket for Mrs Isadore Straus  (nee Rosalie Ida Blun) an elderly Jewish lady who chose to stay at her husband’s sides and so perished with the ship. Mine was a second class reservation in the name of Frederick James Blanfield, a mining engineer.

The exhibition is more tasteful and well thought out, than I had expected. Presentation is centred around various artefacts recovered from the wreck site, two and a half miles below the Atlantic.

There are a series of galleries starting with the passenger accommodation and a reconstruction of a luxurious first class cabin. This was not however the top of the range £600.00.00* suite, which would have set one back some £33,000 today. There is also a third class cabin in steerage with its quadruple bunks and White Star company blankets with their distinctive pennant logo. For the time this was luxury accommodation.  Steerage cost some £7.00.00, approximately £500 now.

*I’ve given prices, as they would have been rendered in then predecimal monetary system that prevailed for a thousand or so years up until February 1971.

Other galleries dealt with the crew, catering and culinary arrangements and the bridge with a vista of not particularly convincing stars. The engine room has a mock up of one of the great furnaces and one of the watertight doors intersected the bulkheads, the very ones that failed to reach high enough to save the ship.

Real attractions of the exhibition are the artefacts from the tragic ship itself. These include personal articles and clothing from passengers and crew, crockery, tools, letter, postcard, jewellery and keepsakes.  The one piece I remembered was a coin of Constantine I from the 4th century AD that had been made into a pendant and gone down with the ship.

In the accompanying catalogue are pictures of artefacts recovered from the wireless room. The then ultra-novel Marconi set was seen as much as a social amenity for passengers than an essential communications tool. Many ice reports from ships hove to for the night, failed to reach the bridge and lay forever under mounds of gossip.

There are fascinating pieces of equipment such as the ship's telegraph, for communication with the engine room, the steam of the wheel, both of which were recovered from the wreckage of the bridge. There are light fittings, telephones and even a piece of  Titanic’s hull, which you are able to touch.

There is even an iceberg. You dismiss this as fibreglass as did I until Colleen placed a cold hand on the back of my neck having discovered it was real. A genuine touch but as the caption says, the real berg would have been a lot colder.

The Olympic class liners were a thoroughly bad design with an underwater configuration vastly inferior to their older rivals, Cunard’s Mauritania class.
This made the Olympics pigs to handle at sea. Titanic herself was very nearly involved in a collision with another liner before she ever set sail.

Titanic’s elder sister Olympic, the only one of the three to enjoy a career on the Atlantic run, sank three ships in her twenty-year life, two of them unintentionally.
Britannic, the largest and last of the three never entered service at all being commissioned as a hospital ship and mined in the Mediterranean. 

Exit through the Gift Shop
Of course there’s a shop with overpriced products in it. For some reason everything seemed to be priced in multiples of eight. I bought a White Star Company eggcup and Colleen, bless her, bought me a 3rd class dinner plate. She also bought herself a DVD which when she attempted to play it configured for US regional streaming. It is narrated by Leonard Nimoy, which should have told her something.

A thoroughly good and well-presented exhibition but I felt a little ghoulish pouring over such fragments of calamity. When I was very small my aunt, who was a Victorian and who would have been twenty-two when Titanic foundered, would sing me to sleep and one of the songs she sand was Closer thy God to Thee.

I am something of an empath and seem to have taken some her past life experience as part of my own. Consequently I’ve had the feeling of being projected exactly a hundred years into the future so that I am here merely as a bemused observer.

Thus whilst everyone else experiences this event as something that happened ninety nine years ago, for me it is something due to occur next April!

Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition is on show at O2 until 1 September 2011
Go to for more details

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 6 August 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 17 August 2011

Arts & Antiques Fair, Olympia

After the Impact Art Fair I took up an invitation to visit a friend in Germany and stayed there a week. My week in Germany back in May was not restful but I learned a lot in the Tuteburger Forest. I flew back from Osnabruck to Stanstead and got the train in to Liverpool Street. I met my friend Ed at St. Pancras on the way back to Brighton and he gave me a couple of tickets to the Arts and Antiques fair at Olympia on 19th June.

I like to do a bit of incognito mingling occasionally. Breezing into seminars and private views and letting people take me for what they will. Three years ago I was invited out to Spain by Polaris World with a view to purchasing a golf resort.

Now I don’t like golf and I haven’t any money but they weren’t to know and they were not going to tell me they were going bust that very week. Still it was a good little jaunt as they paid for a flight for two, first class and five star accommodations with chauffeur.

So I thought I’d give Olympia a try. To be honest I didn’t think the fair would be up to much and we nearly didn’t go. It so happened that Colleen and I were at a loose end on Sunday 19th June, the last day of the show so we went to London and caught the last hour.

It proved amazing. Lots of expensive toys I couldn’t afford such as brace of flintlock pistols at £14,000 and a mandolin embossed with mother of peal for £4,500, but I think an extra zero got snuck in for a chuckle on that one.

My favourite stall was an art dealer with some large-scale work by a former keeper of the Queen’s pictures, whose name escapes me, but who I’m sure you can Google given the mind. The queen in question being Victoria. The paintings were in the style of the Du Berry illuminated manuscripts of the early fifteenth century but the artist had obviously had a lot of fun doing them.

In the corner I was shown a portrait by Edward Burne-Jones of his wife at the bottom of which she had written of her disfavour with the piece in tiny scriptiform. I wish I could remember what it was she said but by that time they were packing up for home.

The next Art & Antiques Fair happens at Olympia from 14 - 20 November 2011

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 15 July 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 September 2011

Charles Devus becomes elevated...

I have been asked to provide an introduction, a few words or so about my self and what I intend to write about. When I am asked to encapsulate what I am supposed to be I always find it a bit problematic. I always get a bit self conscious and tend to play to the gallery, the jokey egoist, then there is the tendency to come across with false modesty.

Firstly who am I? To my friends I am Charlie, To my enemies, who are legion, it is Sir! On the covers of leather bound tomes, engraved in gold lettering it is Charles Ivanovich Devus, (hopefully elevated to equestrian status in the near future) also to be found on gilded labels under framed examples of my work in The Royal Academy, Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Hermitage.

I could say that I am a writer. I write poetry, plays, short stories and historical articles, but without some examples this doesn't mean very much. I could equally tell you I was an artist, I think the preferred Arts Council jargon is a Fine Arts Practioner, but I am certainly not one of those.

I'm also a performer and I have now began learning music and to play the guitar. Again without some examples these are empty statements. i prefer to prove what I am doing rather than to comment upon it. In the course of these articles I hope to do just that.

I will be writing about my experience as a writer with Disability Arts on Line and as an artist with Creative Futures and of the ongoing saga of Berlin where i may or may not have an exhibition next year. I will be covering Creative Futures, outside in and what ever stirs at Fabrica galley in Brighton plus what ever else of interests crosses my path.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 7 July 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 28 July 2011

The Impact Arts Fair in Islington Thursday 19 May

To London for the Impact Art Fair - an exhibition produced by the Brighton-based organisation Creative Future who support disadvantaged artists. I caught the train to Victoria. Realised I didn't know where it was so popped into St. James' Library in Westminster and googled the event despite plenty of info supplied by Project Director, Simon Powell. Caught 38 bus to Islington. Went to pub where two sexy girls tried to find the address for me, but in the end I had to ask a cabby.

I managed to get the time wrong despite a clear indication on the programme. It ended, not started at 7pm and I came through the wrong entrance. Simon has placed both my works on their stand. I have two pictures, both pen & ink drawings from 1989. 'Scicilia, Life on the Streets' which only got its final title this April when it was published in The Big Issue, and 'Popish Plots'. Both are small pieces drawn in red on black and done mainly on trains in Italy. They are very popular.

I chat to some Germans from the Galeri Art Cru in Berlin who come over to see the pieces and immediately invite me to Berlin with the possibility of an exhibition. An old Scots artist called Frank takes a shine to me and follows me around. After the show I’m granted a bottle of wine from the complimentories and we go to the pub with Frank. He gets the drinks in and tells interesting stories but at such a machine-gun rate I can't really take them in. He gives me a tenner to get a drink and tells me to keep the change. I'm brasic so I do. I feel like I'm 19 again.

He tells anecdotes about Lucian Freud, Jimmy Page and Edward Lucy Smith. We take a cab to little Venice where he lives. His work is good but his friends are even better. It is all very Glasgow Art School stuff. We crack open the wine and he offers to let me stay over but I'm not into old guys so he gives me £20 or a cab and I get the 36 to Victoria. The train home is uneventful and so to bed.

The Impact of Impact
My personal experience of the last half hour of the opening night were pleasantly overwhelming and it was difficult to make an appreciative evaluation of the work on display. It was of the highest standard. My usual reaction to an excursion to a contemporary gallery is one of profound irritation at the derivative and overwhelmingly middle class product on view.

There were a whole raft of artist and organisations represented. I won’t attempt to catalogue them all but I’ll provide a listing and you can follow them as you will.
What I will try to do is provide some colour and the flavour of a few.

I was really impressed by some of the artist represented by SlaM NHS Trust and Cool Tan Arts. Many of these are people in the psychiatric system or those who have survived it. Russell Jones I knew from Cardiff and was inspired by H.R. Guigar. If I remember rightly I even went to his first exhibition in 1986. I like his work, it stands out, though there is a marked similarity with Jones’ work of that period and his current output. I particularly liked Neal Pearce’s symbolist pieces, that could be a yet to be deciphered pre-Columbian script. Esther Thomas’ work reminded me of my Father’s. Even the titles could have been his.

A number of writers contributed to the Impact Art Fair Catalogue including some of the artists. I know Sarah Harris personally and like her work and particularly liked Alan Mitchell’s 'I Smell My Winter on the Breeze'.

The Impact Art Fair billed itself as Outsider Art and I found I as an artist fitted this label rather too neatly. It is ironic in this day and age when the media preaches a diatribe of individualism and at the same time seeks to crush all individual expression in a tsunami of homogeneity. To escape its all-embracing check one must beaver away in corners where its spotlight might not fall. Those who are nurtured away from its clean bright light are invariable mentally ill. They are cured by exposure, for with exposure comes comoditisation, so that the social machine in which we all thrive is safe from any real diversity.

I think by making this comment available to you I have betrayed myself. By reading it you are become commodity. Maybe there is a cheque in the post that is the value of our souls.

Calls for submissions for the next Impact Arts Fair will be going out towards the end of 2011... so watch this space!

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 1 July 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 September 2011