Old Monovian Gerald O'Connell has been painting and drawing since 1989. His special interest in the issue of homelessness started around 2011 and led to the E17 Human Street Furniture project, exhibited at the Vestry House Museum as part of the 2012 E17 Art Trail.
Gerald continues his work at his studio in Walthamstow and documents his current work on the Kurai Hoshi Gallery website and through his Portrait Progress blog about his work with St Mungo's Broadway:-
A new ‘artist in residence' initiative between artist Gerald O'Connell and students at St Mungo's Broadway Recovery College aims to raise funds and awareness about homelessness.
Gerald O'Connell is using the innovative Recovery College in Southwark as a base to get to know various Recovery College students - most of whom are St Mungo's Broadway clients, past and present - and then create portraits of them for subsequent sale at a charity auction in London later this year, with all proceeds to be donated to St Mungo's Broadway.
The Recovery College is a groundbreaking project which aims to help people ‘inspire, learn and grow'. With courses on art as well as wellbeing, self-esteem and vocational skills, the College helps boost people's confidence and share their talents as they rebuild their lives from being homeless.
O'Connell is an established artist who has exhibited in London, New York and Tokyo, with work currently in the Saatchi online gallery. His interest in depicting people with an experience of homelessness began several years ago and some of his earlier work on this theme can be seen in his online gallery.
O'Connell says "People who've had difficult experiences, such as being homeless, have gone through a great deal in their lives. There is something very powerful about the way their experience has shaped their appearance and character, giving it an emotional depth not always evident in other subjects. I try to capture some of this in my work, but I also strive to give my portraits a sense of dignity that reflects the enormous resilience and inner strength that these people have."
O'Connell continues "The Recovery College is a superb institution, one that deserves widespread recognition for its far-sighted work, and I feel privileged to be involved with its activities. I give copies of my completed work to each person involved, and I hope this will make some small contribution to enhancing their self-esteem. Above all, I believe that they should be seen not as victims but as the successes and survivors that they are."
Andy Williams, Head of Client Involvement at St Mungo's Broadway, said: "The Recovery College is about sharing skills and trying new things. Seeing how Gerald works and how he tries to capture their characters has been very interesting for those involved. After all, it's not everyone who has the chance to have their portrait painted by an established artist
"It's a project that, over the year, we hope will benefit both our Recovery College students personally while creating funds that can then go back into supporting even more of our clients to move away from homelessness and move on with their lives."