Tuesday 3 August 2021

Chesham's Big Picture

I was recently asked to get involved with The Big Picture in Chesham, Buckinghamshire - a collaborative venture by a bunch of artists, businesses and a local theatre to promote the arts. I was invited to do so by the organiser, award-winning film maker Emily Brown. Across five days of arty fun we ran workshops, created shop window displays and interactive events, such as an art trail featuring Chesham-related history. 

We kicked off in the foyer/cafe of the Elgiva Theatre, hanging a group of canvases all painted by local people. Emily designed a mural featuring Queen Elgiva - the ancient tribal chief who was the first person to ever name Chesham in writing - and then broke the design into 40 squares. Then, local people - some artists, some not - were encouraged to have a go at reproducing one of the squares on a canvas. The finished result looked like this:
Hanging them all straight and getting the spacing right was a nightmare but we got there. 

We then asked local resident and all round lovely chap Alex 'Taskmaster' Horne to chose a top three, which he did. He also created a canvas of his own ...

The High Street Art and History trail was next. I was asked to produce some sculptures and art relating to the story of Roger Crab - hermit, hatter and pioneering vegan.

Buckinghamshire-born Crab fought with Cromwell in the English Civil War, and was severely wounded in the head by a sword. Once cashiered he set up a hat maker's business in Chesham where the chemicals used (and possibly his head wound) affected his nervous system and mental health and led him to exhibit some extreme behaviours. He became a vegan (long before veganism was invented), and attacked the church and authority, for which he was arrested several times, whipped and placed n the stocks. He consequently decided to sell off or give away everything that he owned and chose the life of an ascetic hermit. He built a hut in a tree near Uxbridge and, from there, uttered prophecies and doled out herbal medicines. His behaviour and criticism f authority still upset people, however, and he was accused of witchcraft. He therefore made one final move to East London. He died just before his 60th birthday having nearly doubled the average life expectancy for a man at that time (31.3 years).

I was tasked with doing a cartoony portrait of his army days and to create a junk sculpture of him and his tree house.
It has also been suggested by some academics that stories about Crab partially inspired Lewis Carrol's Hatter from the Alice books. Whether it's true or not, it's a fun story so I was also tasked with making a junk Mad Hatter too.
Crab's life story is told across eight shop window displays and they all feature work by local artists. It's a wonderful venture and well worth a visit if you're in that corner of Buckinghamshire.

Chesham Library is hosting an exhibition of original paintings for sale ...

The various displays and exhibitions can be viewed for the remainder of August.

No comments:

Post a Comment