By Revathi Nair
“I think God has a sense of humour.”Gary Bunt
Gary Bunt was born in 1957 in East Peckham, a small village in Kent, England, where he spent a pleasant, happy childhood. In his youth, Bunt showed a range of artistic skills, eventually being drawn into the world of music. Later, he found a keen desire to pursue art. Bunt has no schooling in art and is a self-taught artist. Several health issues that came his way early in his career molded his artistic style, encouraging him to channel his experiences and emotions into the paintings that he created.
Bunt’s artwork is inspired by his life, his memories, and his struggles. During his illness- he is a survivor of cancer to the vocal cords- he spent a lot of his time reminiscing, which influenced and modified his later works.
Another major influence on Bunt’s work is his faith. Religion was ingrained in his life from childhood. In the tumultuous periods of his life, Bunt found solace in God and in Christ. In fact, he claims that the peace that his faith brought him was what pushed him to pursue his aspiration of becoming an artist and a poet.
JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE
JESUS WENT TO THE TEMPLE
HE WAS NOT A HAPPY MAN
THERE WERE PEOPLE SELLING TRINKETS MONEY
NOT KNOWING HE WAS ABLE HE TURNED OVER
I’D NEVER HEARD HIM SHOUT
HE WAS EVER SO CROSS SHOWING THEM WHO’S
BOSS THROWING ALL THE SINNERS OUT
WHEN THEY’D ALL GONE THE LIGHT OF LIFE
THE TEMPLE HE STARTED TO CLEAN
VANISH STAIN REMOVER HIS NEW DYSON HOOVER
A DUSTER AND MR SHEEN
Bunt was inspired by Modern British Art, particularly by the works of Christopher Wood, Stanley Spencer and the Nicholsons. His style, to an extent, is an amalgamation of elements of their work, yet distinctive in its own right.
Bunt has amassed quite a following in the art community with his heartwarming paintings as well as the corresponding poetry. Since his works draw immensely from his own experiences, nearly all of his works are set in the English suburbs and countryside he spent all his life in. Most of his paintings center around two charming characters- an old man and his faithful dog. They are recurring in his works and what makes his art distinguishable from others.
Bunt captures the essence of a slow-paced, country life in his paintings that makes one sigh in longing for such peace and calm. There is a serenity to his art that I have seen in few other works.
This sentiment is perhaps imbibed in Bunt’s work for his paintings are accompanied by short, witty verses intended to be uplifting and inspiring.
For most of his paintings, the poems are recited from the perspective of the
dog. What is most endearing about the poetry is how, through the dog’s narrative, we see a deconstructed, simplified take on everyday life events and questions of faith-they are presented as if from the inquisitive and naive mind of a child. Besides, the sheer cheekiness of the verses will leave you smiling from cheek to cheek.
THE VILLAGE STORES
WE HAVE COME TO POST A CHRISTMAS CARD
DOWN AT THE VILLAGE STORES
I HAD A RIDE IN THE SHOPPING TROLLEY
BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE THE SNOW ON MY PAWS
I’ve looked at many of Bunt’s paintings, and found myself wondering about the old man portrayed in them. Thankfully for you and me, Bunt clears that up in an interview. The old man in the paintings is none but himself! But if you look at a picture of Bunt, you will realise that Bunt doesn’t quite resemble the aged man in his creations. His character is much older and stouter than Bunt is in real life. However, he further adds that he painted himself as an old man because, owing to his struggle with cancer, he never imagined he would live to be old.
BONES AND THINGS
WE LIKE LONG WALKS
WE LIKE BONES AND THINGS
BUT THE THING THAT WE LIKE MOST
IS THE TASTE OF BUTTER AND MARMALADE
WHEN HE GIVES US THE CRUSTS FROM HIS TOAST
In Hinduism, the Gods have different forms, or ‘avatara’. These gods take up different roles and fulfill different destinies by means of that role. I view the old man as being of similar nature, in a way. In some paintings, he is a farmer, in others, a fisherman, but in most, he is the dog’s master.
While the old man, to Bunt, is his older self, he doesn’t attempt to personalize the character too much for in its ambiguity, he allows the old man to be anyone the perceiver wishes him to be. Then, of course, there is the dog in his works. It isn’t always the same dog. Sometimes it’s a white dog with black spots, other times it is a brown-furred dog or one with a black coat.
While browsing through his Instagram (@gary.bunt) I commented on one of his paintings and asked him if the dogs he painted were inspired by his own pets. He responded, “They are inspired by our own dogs and the relationship other people have with theirs.”
No matter which dog he paints, the canine is always by the old man’s side, a constant companion, a reliable presence in the old man’s world other than the rolling hills and the farms. At first glance, there is an undeniable simplicity to Bunt’s art- the old man, his dog and the man’s beautiful little world. But in truth, all of his paintings have a layer of religiosity to it. Bunt says that by painting the man and his trusty dog, he depicts the same relationship as the one that exists between God or Christ and himself.
In his recent series of paintings, particularly, Christ is a recurring, overt presence.
MY MASTER IS DOING SOME D.I.Y
AT OUR COTTAGE BY THE SEA
HE’S PAINTED THE DOOR THE GATE AND THE
HE’S PAINTED THE FENCE AND ME
I am not a religious person, and have never been moved by art that relates to religion. But I find Bunt’s work to be absolutely captivating, for while most art portraying Christ is tinged with melancholy, sacrifice or tragedy, his portrayal of his Lord appears to be of Christ as a friend. In The Light of the World, Christ leads the man through the dark with a lit candle; in
Jesus Calms the Storm, the man, his dog, and the Lord are on a boat in the stormy seas; in Jesus Cleanses the Temple, we see Jesus using a vacuum cleaner in his church, while the dog appears to be confused by the strange machine. It appears that Bunt sees his Lord as a companion who stands by him and helps him even in the darkest of times, not simply a divine entity there to rescue him.
Gary Bunt’s art appears to me as a nostalgic trance. The godliness in his works soothes me for there is an optimism, a joie de vivre in them that could appease the weariest of hearts. Bunt’s art evokes in me memories of little pleasures in life – the warm comfort of one’s bed, the gentle warmth of the morning sun, reading a bedtime story to a child, the embrace of a loved one.
It inspires in me a sense of faith, not to a superior entity as God, but in humans and in the universe- a simple faith in the ordinary. It promises to remind me what hope feels like in times of despair.
THE TEMPTATION OF ADAM (2016)
ADAM WAS BUSY MOWING
EVE STOOD BY THE TREE
ADAM DEAR COME OVER HERE
AND PICK THIS APPLE FOR ME
EVE SO TEMPTED ADAM
ADAM COULD NOT SAY NO
THE PROBLEM WAS WHEN MADE BY GOD
HIS BRAINS SLIPPED DOWN BELOW
JESUS HEALS THE SICK
THE TWO OF US ARE FEELING ROUGH
SO WE’RE BOTH IN BED TODAY
JESUS POPPED ROUND TO SEE HOW WE ARE
FOR US HE STARTED TO PRAY
HE LAID HIS HAND ON MY MASTERS HEAD
OUR AILMENTS WERE CONFIRMED
THE OLD BOYS GOT A TOUCH OF THE FLU
AND ITS TIME FOR ME TO BE WORMED
THE KITCHEN SINK
I WAS BURYING MY BONE IN THE GARDEN
I ENDED UP WITH MUDDY PAWS
MY MASTER WAS NOT VERY HAPPY
HE SHOUTED GET INDOORS
HE GRABBED ME WITHOUT WARNING
I DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO THINK
BEFORE I KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON
HE WAS SCRUBBING ME IN THE SINK
Gary Bunt. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Gary Bunt. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.artnet.com/artists/gary-bunt/
Gary Bunt b 1957. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.clark-art.co.uk/artists/4271/gary-
Interview: Gary Bunt, artist and poet. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Artistic Inspirations of Gary Bunt. (2020, February 19). Retrieved from
The pictures are taken from the artist’s Instagram page. You can follow him at @gary.bunt
Revathi Nair is a psychology graduate and student writer with interests in neuropsychology and art.