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Sunday, September 1, 2013

REGINALD ALAN WESTAWAY (A STORY OF AN OUTSIDER)



Reginald Alan Westaway was an artist. He was an outsider. He may or may not have been a genius but he definitely was unique.

Westaway was born in 1928 in England where he lived his entire life. He attended a fine school-Wilsons Grammar School in Camberwell. His idyllic life as a 'celibate homosexual' and A-grade student in middle-class England was about to spiral downhill.

WW2 started and Westaway was to become a 'Bevin Boy'- working the coal mines for the war effort. Thousands of boys worked the mines-some of them conscientious objectors. Ten percent of all English conscripts ended up here for the duration of the war.


Air raid shelter instructions self-portrait.

His friends died in the war or settled down into regular married life but Westaway seemed to grow more and more distant from the world. Living with his mother for a while in Kent and exhibiting in local fairs did not work for him. He was too 'out there', too disconnected from civilised English life. Now cut off from his childhood chums he turned to youths in the area he photographed and painted. Nick-naming them after his school friends, they probably thought him the well meaning local crazy guy. 

Proper English living.

He withdrew more and more, becoming the hoarding, obsessive-list-writing and fascinating artist that he will be remembered for. 

A lute made from discarded instruments.

Self-portrait

Study for Constructivist banner

Constructivist-style sculpture.



Westaway was a recluse but also a beautiful painter, sculptor and photographer. He would have been forgotten in time if it was not for Nathaniel Lee Jones, an antiques dealer, preserving and celebrating this facinating and sad charter.

Obsessive list making and collecting on Radio Times papers.

Corn Flake packet assemblage


Photographs from the 70's showing local boys he befriended.

His clothes were my first introduction to this interesting man. The image of his coat and constructivist banner sat in my computer for a year before discovering it's creator.


His old coat of many repairs.

His jumper with the goose (on the left)

Heavily patched pants.


His clothing displays a type of working similar to Japanese Boro. Western patchworked clothing is hard to find- items like these would usually be discarded as trash if found. To me these are works of art, fashion and history. They tell a story of a man, an artist and outsider.



Further reading...

M.Goldstein
Nathaniel Lee Jones
Bevin Boys doco
Property Of a Gentleman runs from August 30 to October 12 2013
Boro