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George Westren's: On the Straight and Narrow has now been held at the Saatchi Gallery and it's all thanks to those of you who bought the first round of prints. Click here for details.
In June 2022, George Westren became the unlikely subject of a viral news story reported by TV, radio and print media across the world. Westren, a relatively unknown artist living in a tiny housing association flat in Spitalfields, East London, had sadly died in July 2021 during the UK’s Covid lockdown, but it was not until a year later that a neighbour stepped in to prevent George’s portfolio of intricate op art drawings from being destroyed by a home clearance firm. The artwork went viral on Twitter, where Westren's story - of humble beginnings, homelessness, addiction and eventual salvation through art - touched hundreds of thousands of people. A small print sales run raised enough funds to preserve, catalogue and exhibit Westren’s artwork.
Thanks to everyone who followed the story and bought a print.
"I was so lucky to meet and work with George. He was at every session, with a keen thirst for knowledge. I particularly loved the fact that whatever piece, artist or genre l was teaching about George would sketch in the gallery and then use this as a basis for his incredible op art. He would apologise to me for 'not being able to draw,' but was happy to attempt any techniques l demonstrated. He would chuckle gently as he looked at me saying 'l don't know how you can do that,' my response always the same: 'l don't know how you can do the work you do!'"
"There will be no more Wednesdays of anecdotes, jokes and projects. This Wednesday and Wednesdays to come, they will be filled with only memories. Now that I know that you're gone lonely friend, I want to say goodbye. Remembering you as the gentle Englishman, the one with the blue jeans, genuine and humble person that you were. The vast universe will shelter your spirit freed from human imperfection. Rest in peace George, as you had the courage to defeat your demons and win the battle. Goodbye my friend. Our friend. Our Artist."
Jaime Bautista, SMart Network
"George was a quiet man and good man. He just got on with his art. That's what he wanted to do”
"George was always very droll and up for a joke. He would have been delighted with posthumous fame and unsurprised. George loved to be part of the various groups in the homeless art scene, he was well loved and respected by other members. George never gave much away about himself and was a perfectionist in art. He had strong opinions but always expressed with a sanguine levity, George was brilliant company."
"A great guy who I will fondly remember for always."
Kim Noble, Artist and Tutor: Art Saved George’s Life
I was fortunate enough to know George through a small art group he dedicated himself to. Although actually I never really knew him: he was a private gentleman, always decked out in a slightly oversized jacket, always clutching his portfolio of drawings. Like many he had times of extreme hardship living on the fringes of society. He was homeless for many years and battled with alcoholism. But it was a chance encounter with op art that saved his life. This isn’t hyperbole, George would say this himself. George picked up a felt tip pen and started to draw.
I was the facilitator of The Ten Feet Away art group, which lasted nearly 20 years until COVID and lack of funding took its toll. George was its most dedicated member. In fact, in many ways George was that art group. Each week come rain or shine, George was there with his set of felt pens, a ruler, paper and art portfolio brimming with his art. I would try to advise him, but he would just quietly get on with measuring up and meticulously drawing his latest work. I once made a short video with George in which he confided that “geometric lines kept me on the straight and narrow”. They certainly did.