One of the UK’s most famous inmates Charles Bronson has struck up an unlikely friendship with a London based art curator.
Lisa Gray is known for putting on large scale exhibitions often featuring the work of over 100 International Artists.
After browsing the internet for intriguing art, Gray came across the unique and insightful work created by artist Charles Salvador (formerly known as Charles Bronson).
‘I was instantly taken aback by the pureness of his work. Art that came straight from his soul. With such uninspiring surroundings, I found his talent very inspirational, often not easy to look at but bold, humorous and full of abstract and meaningful detail’
After Gray contacted one of Charles best friends a line of communication was opened. It became evident that Gray and Salvador shared many of the same interests with regards to art, mental health and helping numerous charities such as young offenders, the RSPCA, and soldiers who have been injured in combat.
‘Many people think they know the myth that is Charles Bronson. Over the years his crimes have been exaggerated. He has served more time than murderers, the majority of which has been in segregation. 95 % of crimes committed by Charles where inside the prison walls, some of which were provoked.
When you look at his history you have to ask why he is serving time in the same unit that has housed truly evil criminals such as Harold Shipman, Levi Bellfield, Michael Adebolajo, Peter Sutcliffe and Ian Huntley’.
During his prison time, Salvador has had 22 books published, won awards for his art and poetry and raised over half a million for charity. He believes art has helped him become a better person and he depicts his struggles, experiences of daily life, the violence, the inhumanity, the brutality, the madness and creativity of a complicated mind.
During Gray’s and Salvador’s communication they have discussed the future and his art. Through letters and phone calls it becomes apparent that Salvador’s passion is creativity, art, music and poetry. Dreaming of a simple life, a cup of tea and a great conversation. He wants to be moved to somewhere that will support his art.
‘After speaking to Charles and receiving his letters I realized what a warm, funny and totally charming man he is. Despite his awful living conditions he jokes around and always looks for the positive. I just pray he can continue to create his art, art that holds his heart, his mind and allows him to communicate with family and friends in his own unique and personal way. I personally want to exhibit the work that Charles creates for many years to come and hope one day he can attend his own exhibition and hand over a cheque personally to one of the many charities he supports’.
Charles can you give us a quick synopsis of your background as an artist? When did you start making art? What does it mean to you and why do you do it?
Well, I was born an artist, but it took me over 50 years to find myself. I don’t see myself as a great artist but I’m getting better with every year that passes. So I could end up a great artist. The reason I do it, it gets rid of all my frustrations, tension, madness, anger, I let it all flow onto the canvas or the paper. Why do I do it? Because I love it and that’s the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.
Which artists inspire you and why?
Bloody hell…. Well a lot of people think Salvador Dali but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong the mans a genius, legend in his own lifetime. But…. I’m meeting other artists from my journey in the prison world. I just recently bumped into one called Mark Pearson he’s also a tattooist, an absolute genius, a very complex character, could do so much outside. He’s a lifer, murderer, didn’t mean to do it but he done it. But when he gets out he’s going to be massive. But I suppose the one and only one that really does inspire me is Joe Coleman from the United States of America. I salute him, genius, love him, respect.
The artwork that Flux is exhibiting seems to be biographical with themes of isolation the mundanity of prison, mental health and your perhaps unfair media portrayal. To what extent are these artworks a window into your mind?
Well I see it as an anthology of madness, a journey of hopelessness, insanity on the very edge. Insanity gone bloody mad. Yes it is an anthology of my life and I’ve learnt to not get angry, I’ve learnt now to push it all into my artwork. So actually I have rehabilitated myself through my art.
Everybody knows in the system I love my art, my art is good for me and I ask other people why don’t these muppets in prison from the screws upwards to the governors upwards to the prison headquarters, why don’t they encourage me to do my art and not try everything possible to stop me doing my art, that’s the question.
Rightly or wrongly you are generally depicted as a dangerous prisoner with a Penchant for violence by the media. Do you think art gives you the opportunity to show a different side to your personality?
Without a doubt, I’m never going to be able to sit down and draw roses, beautiful butterflies, not until the day I get freed then I can probably go down that road. But my art has literally saved me. I now know I’m going to get out I’ve got a good legal team behind me, good support, somewhere to live, my jobs art. And that’s what prison is all about rehabilitation – going out and earning a decent pound note, a good honest living and I can do that in the art world. Everyone knows I’m anti crime, anti drugs, anti drink, I don’t smoke, what vices have I got? A bloody Curly Wurly come on. At the end of the day yes my art has bloody saved my soul. Thank you art I love ya!
Why should people come to view your art at Flux Exhibition?
I’ll tell you why you ain’t ever in a million years going to see another artist on show like me. I’m in a max secure shithole. Every time my door opens I’m surrounded by guards, dogs, I’m not trusted, I’m hated. Maybe they are jealous of my art who knows. But what you are going to see at Flux is a little piece of me. That’s me, the real me. Some may not like it. But I’ll tell you something you’re never going to see art like it again. My brother Rod asked me a question a couple of years ago. He said what’s the best bit of art you’ve ever done Charlie and I said I ain’t created it yet bruv it’s yet to be created and I will create it please believe me. Enjoy the art show I’m there with you.
“When Mike O’Hagan got me into art and writing I had no idea I would end up decades later becoming a massive charity worker. Just blows me away to look back at all I have helped, it also makes me feel proud. It’s good for the soul”.
“I found art, I live for art, art is my life. I’m going to do my art and create masterpieces until my heart stops beating. I want to be one of the greatest artists. I am an artist, a man of peace.
I’m going to be Charles Arthur Salvador.
Art has saved me”.
Lisa Gray says
‘FLUX Exhibition does not condone criminality but does believe that offenders can be helped to break the cycle of reoffending. Charles himself has used his art to help rehabilitate himself. Helping young offenders has become increasingly important to Charles he wants to use his experience to prevent others following the same path.
FLUX Exhibition has always been an inclusive event. We do not judge artists on their education or their background. FLUX believes in talent and the immense power of art.’
View 24 artworks by Charles Salvador at The National Army Museum Chelsea, London – 100 Incredible Artists will be on display.
14th – 17th March 2019