Angela Atkinson in association with Ken White
Stroud: Amberley, 2019
95 pages, paperback, £14.99, paperback
The book is, to pardon the pun, a portrait of the much loved Swindonian artist, from his beginnings at the Great Western Railway works. Angela Atkinson raises a question at the beginning of the book; ‘How did Ken manage to become so successful when so many other talented artists are not so lucky?’ The book charts Ken’s journey to success and answers this question, looking at those who helped him on the way, and the serendipitous events that aided him.
What is now Swindon College is shown to have been instrumental in Ken’s career, as were friends and fellow Swindonians Ray ‘Gilbert’ O’Sulllivan, Rick Davies of Supertramp fame and Tony Court, Swindon Borough Council’s Arts Officer at the time. The book shares the stories and experiences that forged their relationships, and Ken’s career.
Ken is best known for his murals, but perhaps not so much for the educational work that ran hand in hand with these creations, both in Swindon and elsewhere. We discover more about Ken’s Trompe L’oeil which earned him his international reputation, and his flagship work for Richard Branson and Virgin. With success came controversy, and we discover how Ken overcame adversity and how he grew as an artist, forging the love of his home town into his work.
As you would expect, Ken White: Muralist and Painter is overflowing with high quality illustrations of his work. There is also an appendix listing all his murals
Ken’s work forms part of the collection at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery. His creative ‘archive’ consisting of many and varied items of his work, charting his growth as an artist, are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham, collected at part of the Creative Wiltshire project www.creativewiltshire.com.
Ken is a Swindonian through and through, depicting the town and his relationship with it through his art. It is right that this account, excellently written by Angela Atkinson, is a part of his legacy. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read, recommended for anyone who has an interest in Swindon or in modern art, and also for art students who may wish to discover more about the way an artist can make a lifelong success of their talent.
Ken White: Muralist and Painter is available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Ref. ZWH.921 and Swindon Local Studies (Central Library) Ref. SWI.921 WHI, plus Central, West Swindon and Park Library.
County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre