Kurai Hoshi Gallery
St. Mungo's Portraits
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In mid-2014 a number of things came together. I had built a new studio at the end of my garden and I had a new project to work on as artist-in-residence at the St. Mungoís Broadway Trust: creating portraits of the trustís clients, past and present, for an exhibition and charity auction. The new studio was important because I find it difficult to work systematically in oils without a dedicated space, and the project called for systematic working methods, being able to have several pieces in progress at any one time. I had been creating portraits of homeless people for several years, working in graphite, acrylic ink and watercolour. It was time for something different. The base for my work was the St. Mungo's Recovery College, a remarkable institution. The trust had, over the years, noticed a revolving door effect: clients would be helped out of homelessness by going into St. Mungo's hostels, and would progress from there to accommodation of their own, only to re-present as homeless at some future point. The need for detailed, ongoing support was clear, but support of a special kind that would break the vicious circle that many clients experienced. The Recovery College was created as a solution. Initial courses were practical in nature, emphasising self-reliance, financial management, literacy, basic life-skills. It was then clear that homelessness had a tendency to disconnect clients from a whole range of things that we take for granted: hobbies, cultural pursuits, computer literacy, science and technology etc.. By introducing courses in these areas it became possible to re-connect clients and rebuild their self-esteem. Few people who have not experienced homelessness appreciate the catastrophic damage it often does to its victims' self-esteem - the Recovery College now addresses this vital issue head-on. Remarkably, the Recovery College's ethos rapidly became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some clients proved to have organisational skills, some had areas of knowledge that they could valuably impart to others. Thus, there were people who started out as clients but who became administrators, course leaders or teachers. A vicious circle became a virtuous circle in a short space of time. Re-built self-esteem created role models and a self-sustaining process. The clients proved to be excellent raw material for portraiture, many of them having experienced more in their lifetime than any of us might hope or fear to do. I have attempted to serve my subjects by putting the same effort and skill into their depictions that might be expected for high-end portrait commissions. I hope that something of their dignity and triumph over adversity comes across in my work. Scroll down on the portrait pages to find out more about these fascinating people, sometimes expressed in their own words.
Human Street Furniture