These paintings belong to a series of observational paintings based on rough sleepers in Birmingham where I live. In the last few years the city, as many in the country, has witnessed a distressingly sharp increase in the amount of people being forced to sleep rough on the streets. Not a day goes by when I do not pass a homeless person begging on the street and sleeping in a doorway or at the back of the local shops, or even in the bus shelter. It’s hard trying to explain it to your kids.
These paintings are relatively modest in scale to attempt to bring the viewer more intimately closer to the image. No people are depicted, just the makeshift shelters made in a desperate bid to keep out the cold and stay warm. Many of the paintings, based loosely on photographs of a ‘camp’ of homeless shelters pitched on some waste ground next to the college where I teach every day, are painted fairly directly at first, before going through a process of being scraped back, built up again, distressed with thrown dirty turps, rubbed back, re-painted etc, to echo something of the endless daily cycle of having to think about where your next meal will be coming from and how will you survive another night on cold, wet concrete or dirty ground.