Observations: Artworks that unlock the heart of Bronson's darkness

Ever on the lookout for a new enfant terrible, the art world's current darling would seem to be Charles Bronson, aka Britain's most dangerous prisoner. Next Friday sees the release of the film Bronson, with a beefed-up, bewhiskered Tom Hardy in the lead. The same day an exhibition of the artwork Bronson has produced over 34 years in jail will open at the Amuti bookshop and gallery in the West End of London.

Bronson was jailed in 1975 for a bungled armed robbery from which he made off with just £26.18. He has spent 30 years in solitary confinement in more than 120 institutions, after a series of incidents inside including 11 hostage-takings, fights with warders, rooftop protests and savage attacks on prisoners. He has used the hours alone in his cell at Wakefield Prison to publish 11 books, devise an exercise regime for confined spaces ("Solitary Fitness") and write poetry. He has also proved to be a prolific artist.

"There has been a shift in attitudes towards him," says Laurence Johns at Amuti. "There have been no violent acts for nine years now. Not a lot of people have experienced what he has experienced and they want to buy the art because it's interesting and it's about mental illness, not just as a bit of work by a notorious criminal." The show gathers over 50 works from private collections with prices from £300. The most expensive (around £3,000) are large-scale pieces on found pieces of cardboard. Their prices reflect their rarity – Bronson is usually limited to prison-issue A4 paper and coloured pencils.

The finely wrought sketches, shaded in pastel colours, reveal the horrors of confinement and Bronson's disturbed mental state with careful detachment. A self-portrait has the caption: "Never walk backwards into a mad man's nightmare. You never know what you will find." Another shows Bronson lying on the floor of his cage – or "Concrete Coffin" – arm poking out of the food hatch, while two wooden signs – "Insanity" and "Isolation" – swing from the bars.

Who knows; the man himself might even turn up. With criminally good timing, Bronson's parole hearing takes place next Wednesday.

www.amutionline.com

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash