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Social Secret

Updated: Feb 20

One of my favourite things about being an artist is learning about other artists. Whilst I was a student I didn’t appreciate this luxury. This means that the time I spend now researching artists is entirely my own to invest, and I use the word invest intentionally.


I recently discovered the name Charles Spencelayh. An artist of the early twentieth century, who painted life like portraits and domestic scenes. I am most interested in the types of characters that he painted and of course the context in which they are captured.

“Spencelayh specialized in anecdotal domestic scenes in the tradition of Victorian genre painting, most typically showing old codgers pottering around in junk shops or other cluttered interiors”.

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artists/spencelayh-charles-18651958



The benefit of no longer being a student is that I don’t have to reference that quote properly! But I love it. I love the description and it resonates with me in regards to a series of paintings I started last year. I started one painting after spending months planning, however then my painting space changed and therefore so did my use of oil paints, of course through the winter losing my fingers to frostbite attempting to paint was not a priority, so I returned to my beloved sketchbooks.


The series that I started (and I will someday finish) is going to depict ‘hoarders’ in their own environment. I want to capture the desperate loneliness and the attempt to hide those feelings, whilst showing each individuals living arrangement. For instance, the painting I started is of a man sitting eating in his kitchen. This seems like a normal action, however the man is sitting in the only space in the three bedroom house that he is able to. Each room is piled six foot high of stuff that anyone else might consider junk.


Another that I intend to paint is of a man sitting in a chair, in his lounge. There is a crooked lamp leaning, almost wilting next to him. The man is in the centre of the image. The foreground is built up of piles and piles of books, magazines, and general clutter. Once again, stuff that anyone else might consider junk.

These are just a few of this series that I intend to complete. (I also intend to exhibit these in January 2020).


Each painting in this series will have one person in the centre of the painting, and they will be surrounded by their desperate hoard. I believe that they are surrounded by material objects that cannot hurt them and that they may even consider to be their family.

Coincidentally each person I have chosen to paint comes from large families. I believe that there is a link between these people being lost in a pool of siblings, crying for love and attention, to then becoming hoarders with mental health issues. This is an issue that isn’t addressed within the current mental health system in this country - people are pumped with happy pills and told to ‘keep calm and carry on’. The problem is not fixed, but almost certainly made worse and they are fobbed off by a system that fails them.

I hope that this series of paintings that I will title Family Portraits will highlight this social secret.


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© 2020 by Kelly Will. 

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