This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > > Review: Alf Wiltshire
a woven orange canvas withan orange canvas with the words 'less is more, more or less' woven into itthe words 'less is more, more or less' woven into the fabric

'Less is more' © Alf Wiltshire

Alf Wiltshire was thrown out of his art classes at school for never drawing what his teachers wanted him to draw. While his schoolmates where working at pine cones and lumps of wood his imagination was full of superheroes – Spiderman, Daredevil, The Avengers. Then came Monty Python and Terry Gilliam’s animations, the books of Spike Milligan and Ivor Cutler, and Punk.

Wiltshire was inspired to Do It Himself, and started producing little booklets full of typewritten poems with weird figures crowding the margins. Arctic in my Attic is a typical example:

there’s an arctic in my attic
a frozen atmosphere
blizzard days and howling nights
and polar bears to fear.
there are icebergs poking out the floor
explorers on the wall
frostbitten toes and fingers
and icicles that fall.

there’s an arctic in my attic
a white out in my loft
with rations running very low
and snow that’s blanket soft.
there are huskies huddled tightly
igloos smartly built
don’t think I’ll ever feel warm again
because I’ve lost my only quilt.

collage of a burning house made of texts

'Get On Like A House On Fire' © Alf Wiltshire

The surreal vision, at once domestic and epic, with twists of nonsense and humour, is there also in his visual work. Take the pieces from his latest project, the Little Book Of Vertical Sayings. They’re at once like cross-stitched Victorian Samplers, their standard mottoes, ‘Home Sweet Home’, Bless This House’, ‘Mother’ replaced by Wiltshire’s own texts.

'Less is more' has a typically domestic feel to it, but with a twist that all Wiltshire’s own. His paintings draw on this same naïve tradition:

This piece has a similar home-made, craft feel to it. Wiltshire takes the simple image of a house but instead of this being our castle and our keep, the house  is under siege. An army of red, yellow, and pale blue heads surround the place; some already inside upstairs.

The house is a construct of texts, as if the sampler mottoes had mutated and overgrown the brickwork. The exploding roof is the big clue to what’s going: this is a house on fire, and all the energy and wit of the piece is up on that roof. It’s at once a visual joke, a sinister vision, a subversion of the commonplace.

Like many Outsider Artists Wiltshire is very prolific. He is finally starting to get the attention he deserves. Alf Wiltshire is currently showing work at the Jolly Gorgeous Gallery, Kemp Town Brighton.
Further shows at Skyline Gallery, Brighton Marina, and in the Christmas Open Houses in Brighton are planned.
His collection of poetry, Stalactites For The Home, is published by Waterloo Press.
You can see more of Alf Wiltshire's work online on his own website at