Bristol is well known for its vibrant street art, and anyone familiar with this blog will know that the constantly changing graffiti, particularly around Stokes Croft and Montpelier, is one of the delights, for me, of living in this city (compensation, I like to think, for the lacklustre efforts of the Arnolfini). However, the sheer volume of the stuff in these two neighbourhoods does mean that one can get quite blasé about street art, and certainly I find that I photograph it less often these days. But every now and then something really wonderful pops up and stops me in my tracks – which is exactly what happened when I spotted the first birds being painted onto this house in Montpelier.
And I wasn’t alone: for the five days it took Alex Lucas to paint this delicate mural of birds, flowers and foliage onto the front of her house, there seemed to be a huddle of onlookers permanently encamped on the pavement opposite. Some, she says, even provided her with the odd meal along with lots of encouragement.
Although there are other works of Alex’s around the neighbourhood – most notably this fabulous fox being mobbed by seagulls – the majority of her work is smaller in scale
and screen printed on paper or fabric. For many years Alex has sold her cards through shops around the city. But as she hand prints all her cards, and most of her larger prints, once the shops have taken their cut her profit margin is so slim it no longer works financially. But the brisk business she always drums up during Montpelier’s annual arts trail prompted her to think about setting up on her own: “I just thought, hey, why not do it all year round?” she says. And so, every Friday and Saturday Alex’s house becomes
The Window Shop, a transformation easily achieved by the simple act of throwing
open her sitting room window.
She also has plans to run various workshops from her sitting room, such as print-making and felt-making. Having just completed her MA in Art Therapy, and taken up her
first post, these group activities are something she feels particularly passionate about. “The therapeutic benefits of art are becoming increasingly valued in the treatment
of trauma and many mental health problems,” she explains. “Where words fail the
image can bridge the gap.”
I know it’s a little fanciful, but it’s very tempting to see Alex’s painting on her house as being a bit of art therapy in action, appearing as it did, at the end of a turbulent summer during which the riots were just a hundred odd yards from her doorstep. These days, instead of angry rioters being drawn to Picton Street and York Road, with their sights set on bringing down Tesco, we have happy shoppers heading into Montpelier in search of screen prints and packs of cards.
Do visit Alex’s wonderful website – she’s very talented, as you will see, and there simply isn’t room here to do justice to her textiles and prints.