If you’ve ever been out to see a band in Bristol chances are you’ve spotted a very tall man, with a mop of blonde hair dancing somewhere near the front. Big Jeff is a Bristol legend who has an almost mythical ability to attend every gig in the city. But as well as being an avid gig-goer, he’s also an established artist and musician… and is pretty much adored by everyone in the city.
To coincide with the reopening of Bristol Beacon at the end of November, it’s only fitting that Big Jeff is somehow involved. He’ll be bringing a brand new art exhibition to the events space over its opening weekend. Comprised of a collection of self-portraits, ‘Stare’ asks visitors to look beyond disability and appearance to the person behind it.
Big Jeff created these self-portraits during and after lockdown, along with some brand new artworks painted after his recent accident. (He was badly burnt in a house fire last year.) Using art as a form of self-reflection, a lot of the artworks echo the struggles Big Jeff feels around fitting into the world around him.
Big Jeff said: “It feels very special and an honour to be part of Bristol Beacon’s reopening. The new exhibition is a deeply personal collection with paintings reflecting my thoughts both during the pandemic and more recently as I have been in the recovery phase from my burns.
“My work is designed to invite conversation and I can’t think of a better venue to be home to a provocative exhibition than Bristol Beacon, which itself has helped Bristol to confront a number of difficult and controversial issues.”
The official opening will take place during Beacon’s The Housewarming event – an upcoming all-day free party across the entire venue on December 2, celebrating the reopening. But you’ll be able to visit the exhibition for free in Bristol Beacon’s Glass Room throughout its first fortnight (December 2 to 10). ‘Stare’ is supported by Talk Club, Claremont School, Avon Fire & Rescue and Dan’s Fund For Burns to raise awareness of mental health struggles, disability and injuries.
Todd Wills, Artistic Director at Bristol Beacon, said: “Big Jeff is synonymous with the Bristol music scene and it’s great that we can honour his contribution by hosting his brand new art exhibition here at the Beacon. The Housewarming takes place on Saturday 2nd December and we’ll be flinging open the doors to all parts of the venue with a host of Bristol talent in every part of the building. It’s completely free to attend for everyone and anyone and we encourage you all to immerse yourself in the works of Big Jeff. It’s truly inspiring and not to be missed.”
To learn more about Big Jeff and his art head here.