WILLIAM BROWN AS I KNEW HIM.
William Brown looms large in many people’s memory, his reputation preceded him. He loomed large over me the first time I met him, I forget the occasion but the venue typically was a public house, The No Sign Wine Bar in Swansea to be precise. I was there with Keith Baylis and other unsavoury characters when the LOOMING took place. Suddenly we were plunged into semi-darkness, like a partial eclipse. A Viking chieftain with fiery red beard standing awkwardly in front of us. I imagined he’d taken his horned helmet off and left it on the coat stand. A generous few pints later and we were all chatting wildly, friendships forming. That was the nice thing about William, he could and would talk about anything, my kind of pub guy. He was very easy to warm to and his obscure meanderings warmed up all those around him.
Then, I saw his paintings and prints. Bright, bold and dynamic, I was taken aback by his easy facility. He never stopped painting but knew exactly when to stop working on A painting. Deft strokes, magical colours, a psychedelic Ikea toy shop of images. His work always made me smile.
Despite his happy-go-lucky charm and easy-going nature, William had an astute business mind. He saw the commercial value of his work and produced an avalanche of images, cheap, make you smile low-tech prints, kitchen table sculptures and wall to wall Walrus’, Polar bears and a stampede of Mari-Lwyds.
Hanging an Exhibition with William was a doddle. He didn’t believe in spirit levels, drills or straight lines. We once hung about 120 small paintings in 1 hour. (That’s two a minute…Hello Guinness book of records.. ) We followed no plan, just William’s instinct.
3 TWO NAUGHTY BOYS CATCH A TRAIN TOGETHER.
You’ve heard of Capability Brown right? Well, one day I got a call from Spontaneity Brown. He spoke in a whispered code, as if his ‘phone was tapped. I put the receiver down, everything was fixed. I had to get on the train to London next morning and help a burly, beardy man load up the Caboose with a Moose and paintings and bubble wrap. He would be on platform 1 of Bridgend station and would NOT be wearing a carnation. A rickety train ride, an inspection of the Buffet bar and a BIG black taxi ride into the metropolis followed by delivery of said paintings and a generous interview given for a keen Art History student from U.C.L.A. Then it was off for a splendid lunch and a well punctuated stroll back to the station. He paid. That was William alright, GENEROSITY BROWN.
4 FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.
I’d love to think that William had a loyalty card at the Post Office. He spent a fortune on stamps. His communiques were frequent and prolific. He was an expert in the art of dashing off news, ideas, publicity stunts and nonsense all scribbled in his unique, frenetic hand, punctuated with fyffes banana stickers for commas. His letters when opened released a confetti of fragments torn from magazines or a post card of an empty car park in Milton Keynes and a plastic fork from a box of figs. His letters were funny, obscure. encrypted. His envelopes were treasonous, a pair of bunny ears drawn onto the Queen’s head didn’t land him in the tower. ‘Queen bunny’ he wrote underneath the stamp.
His letters arrived in soft flurries, like the snow in Toronto He loved snow and once shared some ancient Inuit wisdom with me “Don’t eat the yellow snow” he said. I always looked forward to mail from him, however nonsensical the contents.
That’s when I first started to miss him, when the door mat in the hallway became a less colourful place and envelopes became beige again