Young Gants Hill artist depicts the world through eyes of his stroke-victim grandad

Face Blind by Dene Leigh

Face Blind by Dene Leigh - Credit: Archant

After his grandad suffered a stroke which left him unable to recognise faces, objects and words, a young artist from Gants Hill has tried to depict the world he now sees through his paintings and collages.

Dene Leigh was his artwork at Hampstead station.

Dene Leigh was his artwork at Hampstead station. - Credit: Archant

When Dene Leigh saw his grandad lying on the floor and “powerless”, the trauma he felt influenced the art he creates, wishing he could tell him he was the inspiration behind it.

The 23-year-old, who has recently graduated from the Chelsea College of Art and Wimbledon College of Art, has installed an exhibition for the public and even had his work displayed on a three-metre billboard in Hampstead Underground station.

He said: “Art was the only subject I was ever interested in at school so I spent a lot of time practising.

“As soon as I started at Chelsea College they knocked the traditional artist out of me, and I looked more at the process than the outcome.

“Just before my degree, my grandad suffered a bad stroke.

“After that he was unable to recognise faces and words, and I decided to incorporate that into my work.”

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Dene makes use of mundane objects discovered on his travels and combines them with items he found in his grandad’s home.

Through paint and collage, materials are manipulated so that objects are not instantly or easily recognisable.

He said: “I wanted to represent how my grandad now sees the world.

“When I saw him lying on the floor, powerless, it really hit home what had happened, when just the day before he was driving around and was very independent.

“When I helped my mum look after him, we were looking through his things and I began to think I could use them in my work.

“The items I used to see him with when I was child, became my art.

“Things like the tin that he used to keep his nuts and bolts in, which had a drawing in marker pen on the bottom, I used as a starting point for my collages. It all happened by accident.”

The former King Solomon High School, Forest Road, Barkingside, pupil, who admits his family would be happy if he had carried on painting traditionally, said: “I want the audience to feel annoyed that they aren’t unable to identify each image straight away, to represent how my grandad feels.”

The talented artist, who believes his greatest achievement so far has been selling a painting at his degree show for £1,500, hopes to focus on his art in the future while working at Victoria Miro Gallery in central London.

n To find out more about Dene, visit