Monday August 02 2021



Village Art & Literature

The power of colour

Posted on August 30 2016 at 3:06:04 0 comments

Alexander and Finding Beauty

Sally Oldaker meets a village artist whose work attracts international attention.

A young artist from Barnt Green has seen his career get off to a flying start, selling his work to buyers worldwide.

Alexander Boardman, whose professional name is Alexander Rhys, grew up in the village and attended local schools but freely admits that formal education – especially the way art is taught  – wasn’t for him.

“In my experience, art in schools is more about ticking boxes and passing exams than being creative,” he remarks.

He tried a couple of sports courses after leaving, but still retained his passion for art – and eventually signed up for a short photography course at BITA Pathways, a Digbeth adult education centre for people with mental health problems.

Alexander, now aged 28, makes no secret of the fact that he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but says that the way he relates to pattern and structure has informed his photographic work.

He was told that he had an eye for the subject, and went on to Matthew Boulton College to further hone his artistic talent.

Strolling around Barnt Green one day looking for inspiration, Alexander came across an old chair on top of an unlit bonfire, and decided to take it down and photograph it.

“Sometimes an object seems to say ‘take a picture of me!’” he explains. “I like to shine a spotlight on banal items and embrace the ordinary. So many people are in a rush these days, and we should take time to appreciate what’s around us.”

The resulting image, posted on his Flickr site, was spotted by an author in Holland – who asked Alexander if he could use it for the cover of his novel. Soon after, US magazine Chicago Review Press also wanted to use the image (taken from a different angle) on its front cover.

“It all went from there!” says Alexander, who set off for Bath Spa University to study Fine Art – and managed to sell one of his pieces for £3,000 at his degree show. This, too, had come about by chance:

“I struggled to afford large canvases, but one day I saw a big sheet of steel lying in a field. I took it home, painted on it in layers, and scratched the surface to reveal the rust underneath.

“I really liked the fact that I had ‘upcycled’ a discarded object.” So did Bath Abbey Hotel, now the owner of Finding Beauty.

Alexander then entered and won a competition offering the chance to show his portfolio to international photographic agency Magnum Photos, while Clear Channel, the agency responsible for (among others) the electronic adverts in the London Underground, bought some of his work – including City Reflections, a photograph using the mirrored facade at Birmingham’s Grand Central Station.

He was also invited to exhibit at Digbeth nightclub Lab 11, which projects artwork on its walls during club nights.

This success prompted Alexander to apply to the Prince’s Trust, hoping to turn his passion into a business. The organisation gave him a £2,000 loan to get up and running, sent him on a short business course and offered help with contacts, social media and money management.

“The Trust has a shop in London to sell artwork, and they asked me to submit some pieces for the main window display,” Alexander adds. “It’s all been a bit surreal and exciting!”

He now has a studio in Digbeth, where he works every day – and sometimes during the night. He says that the success of his artwork has helped him embrace his OCD:  “I realised I can use it as a positive – and it’s therapeutic because with abstract art, I can really let myself go.

“There’s much more to abstract than meets the eye – people say ‘I could have done that when I was three!’, but it’s about the power of colour, expressing yourself and putting things like anxiety on canvas.”

Alexander names Monet, Rothko and Gerhard Richter as his influences, but also credits the Barnt Green area with inspiring him and providing a “haven” as he calls it.

“Barnt Green is my home – after living in Bath for university I knew I wanted to come back to the village and make a name for myself in my local area.”

See more of Alexander’s work at:

Contact him by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Above: Alexander with Finding Beauty
Below: Hush Hush Enclosure

Hush Hush Enclosure

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