Inspirational Framfield mouth painter Barry (Bazza) West is showing his work at an international art exhibition at the Subway Gallery, London this week.
Commuters and art lovers have flocked to the collection contributed by members of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA.) MFPA members have lost the use of their hands through accident or illness, or have been born with a disability, such as Thalidomide. The self help organisation provides them with the opportunity to be self sufficient through the sale of their art and its reproduction for Christmas cards, greeting cards and calendars. Bazza’s work is alongside paintings by disabled artists from across the world on the walls of the gallery, between the Edgware and Harrow Road crossing in the W2 pedestrian subway.
The heartbreaking story about how Bazza became disabled can be found on his website (westyuk.co.uk.) A former fitness and sporting fanatic who belonged to Young Farmers’ clubs, the Red Cross and Cubs as well as enjoying boxing, rugby, stoolball, weights and even ballet dancing, Barry started his own gardening business. In 1996 He was driving home in his van one wet night when a badger ran in front of him. His instinct was to slam on the brakes....as a result he hit a tree and the van roof caved in onto him. He had to be cut out of the vehicle, rushed to the Princess Royal hospital with a broken neck, and was later transferred to Stoke Mandeville.
The accident robbed him of movement in his arms and legs, but Bazza was determined to make the most of his remaining skills.
He raised money for ‘Back-up,’ (a charity that works with spinally injured people and focuses on targeting self-belief, or ‘barrier bashing,’) learnt ski-ing, scuba-dived, enjoyed a sky-dive and even climbed Snowdon.
Two years ago, someone set up an easel for him and he experimented with a paintbrush in his mouth. He said he dabbed and brushed colours onto it without any idea of what he was doing. His natural talent meant this year he was offered a scholarship to become a mouth painting artist with the Mouth and Foot Painting Company, making him one of 36 recognised mouth painters in the UK and one of 800 in 83 different countries. His mantra? “Never ever give up and always focus on your ability.”