The dark arts ...

Talking Walls Opening Exhibition

Talking Walls Opening Exhibition

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Lemmy from Motorhead already has a guitar highly customised by local punk rock singer and artist Zorro Suzel, building on his late dad’s legacy as one of the founders of The Broken Arts Society, a group of artists creating a real stir in Cleveleys right now.

Picture the sort of guitar the Walking Dead (with all respect to Lemmy) would play, and you get the picture. Eyes protrude from it, teeth, sinuous satanic forms writhe and twist, all against a blood red backdrop.

It takes Zorro, and that’s his real name (Zorro Justin Susel, to be precise), weeks to create one of these guitars, ideally with just the body, not the neck, or fret work, forwarded for him to work upon. It makes no difference to the sound, he stresses.

He’s a barber, and occasional special FX make-up artist by day, punk singer by night, with One Way System, one of the Rebellion punk festival’s favourites. The festival itself, returns in August, at Blackpool’s newly restored Winter Gardens, for the 35th anniversary of punk and 15th year of such festivals.

There’s a stunning portrait of Zorro by fellow artist Bex Fitton at the end of the corridor from which rooms present the Broken Arts Society’s debut exhibition, Talking Walls, at Cleveleys Business Centre, Dorset Avenue, off Cumberland Avenue, from Thursday to Sunday.

In all, 18 artists are taking part, including three of the four founders of The Broken Arts Society, a name that reflects their take on life, and their experiences to date, the society itself born of the vision of Zorro’s late father, Andy (nicknamed Lonely), who died from liver failure at 52, hours before his friend, and fellow founder, Carolyn Sillis was diagnosed with breast cancer.

What becomes of the broken arted? The work on show ranges from surprisingly tranquil rural scapes, to red hot and raw art, that all but drips off the walls like something out of Psychoville. Not quite the kind of thing you associate with what usually passes for contemporary art in the busy retail and retirement town of Cleveleys – and that’s part of its appeal. Take the art ‘installation’ by fellow society founder and self styled ‘social realism’ artist Bex, a mother of four, who joined forces with Carolyn, Zorro and talented young graphic designer Rakin Rahman, 18, to transform the upper reaches of the business centre, in which her studio is based, into one of the most innovative art shows the Fylde has seen.

Visitors need to be on their avant garde, for Bex, like the rest, has a decidedly dark side.

Step within what appears to be a glorified broom cupboard and sit down, and the door shuts, lights go off, music strikes up, strobes pulsate, and walls appear to throb blood, thanks to liberal helpings of ultra violet paint, eerily lighting toy dollies, kitsch ‘70s style art, broken bottles, posters, and a series of disconnected phone handsets bearing just one of the many grim messages Bex has received over the years – this time concerning her mother’s death.

“All the elements say something about my life,” she says. She shrugs off the impact it has on some. “It’s my life, and that’s how I see it, through art. Sometimes you need to get stuff out of your system. It helps.”

There’s a big element of art as catharsis with the others too – Carolyn telling the tale of her fight against breast cancer, through a series of startingly beautiful blood red nudes, art helping her “work things through.”

Carolyn adds: “It’s a great leveller. And don’t get the wrong idea about the Broken Arts Society – we’re very much about life affirmation.”

Much of the art, and virtually all of it is for sale, is truly outstanding, begging the question why can’t they get a more permanent space? It’s a temporary gallery, the show running from Thursday to Sunday, 2pm to 7pm.

The exhibition space, rooms all running off the corridor near Bex’s studio, is by way of thanks, from the centre owner, for clearing out the clutter and making them free for rental by business or office space anew.

Payment in kind is all very well, but Zorro, whose last commission was a large-scale mural for Manchester City, admits he would love to sell more stuff. “Lemmy loves his guitar. It’s very different. I think there’s real potential for this kind of thing, but it’s getting the word out.”

And, while some of the work on display makes the Turner Prize shortlist look tame – Cleveleys’ new artists in residence have much to offer.

They’re home grown artists, urban artists, raised on these very streets, special FX and make-up artists, confessional artists, designers of murals and posters and graffiti, some teachers, others students, yet more holding down paid day jobs, but still hoping for the big break.

It’s all a far cry from gentler souls commissioned by Wyre Council from far further afield to reshape the award winning seafront into a sculptural trail.

“We’d like a bit of recognition closer to home,” Bex concludes. “Art for art’s sake is all very well, but it doesn’t pay the bills. But even when it doesn’t we still do it, because this is who we are and what matters most.”