A brief retrospective on the Souls on Fire (SOF) lads, and a special mention for Vermin who has his own show this month
All photos by shellshock
“If human beings were shown what they're really like, they'd either kill one another as vermin, or hang themselves“ (Aldous Huxley)
I’ve always been partial to a bit of the Souls on Fire (SOF) crew. They make you work. It’s not a picture of a decent looking woman, or a 6th Former’s clumsy political message. They make you wonder what it is in their art that you like. It makes you delve into your inner core to worry about yourself and your own frame of mind. Am I a bit mad because I like this stuff? Don’t answer that question….
I wanted to do a short blog on their work, and when I had a look through my photo archive I realised that they are slightly elusive and their pieces were rather thin on my ground. But it’s still nice to raid the archive and show a smattering of their productions in Bristol.
SOF mainly hail from Frome in Somerset (pronounced ‘Froom’, like vroom, and NEVER ‘Frowm’, like gnome, although more and more newsreaders seem to be doing that) and consist of Pen, Boswell (who used to write under the name ‘Warp‘), Vermin and Rowdy. They mainly write and paint in Bristol and as you’ll see from my slightly random photos they also often work on their own, plus collaborating with other writers, some of whom may not be obvious choices.
Boswell & 3rd Eye - St Werberghs tunnel - August 2008
Pen & Rowdy - St Werberghs tunnel - August 2008
Here’s a few from the Mina Rd tunnel in Bristol a couple of years ago. Boswell does his customary ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ type creatures, but 3rd Eye has his ever so slightly fluffy edges with cartoon-ish characters (still maybe not a cartoon for the kiddiewinks though...).
Pen writes his name like he’s under electric shock treatment and Rowdy shows his ‘other style’; that of ethereal impressionist abstraction (it’s not all crocodiles and painted rocks you know)
Boswell and Pen - The Deaner - July 2009 (with a sliver of Kato on the left)
Boswell and Cheo close up - The Deaner - July 2009
Boswell and Cheo - The Deaner - July 2009
Over the other side of town, I’ve found a few in the archive from the Dean Lane skate park in July 2009. It’s no surprise that Boswell and Pen mutually work together (top photo), but let’s be honest who would have expected Cheo and Boswell to be able to sit on a wall in sync!? Somehow they pull it off, rather like a nice cop / nasty cop routine.
Vermin and Mr Jago - Stokes Croft - September 2010
Vermin - close up - Stokes Croft - September 2010
Finally, I’ve pinned one down from Vermin (a.k.a Dale ‘vn’ Marshall), painted this summer with Mr Jago round the back of Stokes Croft (the self proclaimed ’cultural quarter’ of Bristol). The emotion and fluidity in both of their work shines out for me.
I think it might be my Asperger’s leaning, but I could lap this stuff up all day. I find the abstractions and fantastical meanderings mesmerising, and I‘ve never been afraid of a bit of darkness and emotion. It‘s probably therefore no surprise that my favourite canvas was done by Crie, from the Trans Pennine Nomads (TPN) crew; someone I’ve blogged on several times before. And no visitor has ever had a bad word to say about it (yet.... Nolions & HAN have never been round to my gaff...lol)
My Crie canvas
So, I’m looking forward to ‘Room 101, The Fine Art of Graffiti‘, which is Vermin’s first solo show, opening this week. It showcases 101 oil paintings completed in 101 days this summer, as well as five additional show paintings and site-specific installations. Details are on the flyer below.
The room 101 theme obviously draws parallels from George Orwell’s novel, 1984, as well as Dale’s personal experiences and ongoing battle with his own mental health, including stays in a secure unit. His history and life story (visit here for details) is in equal parts amazing, shocking and totally understandable when you see his art. I don’t know Dale but I feel some connection through his art, maybe aided by us being from the same city. My own minor battles cannot be compared to his, but I do get a strong personal feeling from all of this, and my heart skips a beat when I dip into his story and his soul.
The show also has a dedicated website here