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For Such is Life by Simon Kerr | Issue 199

For Such is Life by Simon Kerr

Raw meets roar by Alessia Belsito-Riera

Simon Kerr says that he uses his art as a sketchbook for his past life. Now a painter, Kerr has lived a double life as the former leader of the Hole in The Wall Gang. He escaped custody six times and didn’t start painting until his last prison sentence, served from 2011 to 2015. His upcoming exhibition The Religious Ape will be shown at Exhibitions Gallery until the 8th of July.

Though Kerr may seem an unlikely candidate for an artist, his experiences and his strikingly original style make for a fascinating and engaging, almost visceral, narrative. “My art is two things – a narrative of my personal journey and my observation of the world along that journey,” Kerr says.

“Although his work is reminiscent of artists like Basquiat, his lack of formal training, or even knowledge of such painters, has meant that Simon has developed his own style,” Exhibitions Gallery director Ron Epskamp says.

His work is organic and spontaneous. “It just is what it is,” Kerr says. But his practice isn’t necessarily therapeutic, “I’m just painting my story and it’s raw/roar, with a w and an r.” That said, Kerr believes that all his “creative stuff” comes from his mother, a watercolourist. “She’s amazing,” he says.

When asked about what kind of outcome he’d like to see from his exhibition, he laughs: “rich and famous”. But in all seriousness, “I don’t want people to struggle with any messages. I want people to empathise with it.”

“I’m humbled that I’ve got this vehicle to drive rather than what I was doing with my life which was a selfish thing,” Kerr says. “I’m just telling my story the best I can.”

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« Issue 199, July 4, 2023