Bristol gig legend Big Jeff launches art exhibition

Jeffrey Johns is widely recognised as Bristol’s most prolific gig-goer.

The 37-year-old, more commonly known as Big Jeff, attended several gigs every week for well over a decade before venues were forced to close last March.

But what’s not common knowledge is that the friendly giant is also a talented artist – something more people will discover following the launch of his new exhibition.

Two years in the making, Jeff’s Welcome To My World features 34 artworks that aim to challenge perceptions of anxiety.

The paintings, some of which have a musical influence, have been created to instigate conversations about mental health and inspire people in similar situations to get creative themselves.

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Big Jeff’s ‘Are You OK?’ painting
(Image: Jeffrey Johns)

The full collection will be released in three phases, each with an accompanying film to allow people to explore the exhibition virtually.

Signed limited edition prints of each piece will be available to buy via Jeff’s new website.

“I use drawing and painting as a form of self-reflection,” said Jeff. “A lot of my work echoes my struggles around feeling like I don’t fit into this world.

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“Art for me has been about expressing emotions I can’t explain another way. These paintings highlight my issues with hidden anxiety and mental health and the barrier these create.

“How people see me is one thing – but internally I sometimes feel completely different. I use art as a way of expressing things that aren’t always easy to discuss.

“My first painting was of a music artist called Raggs. The painting came together around a blurry photo I had taken at a gig. I began to paint an imaginary world around her image.”

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‘Raggs’ by Big Jeff
(Image: Jeffrey Johns)

Raggs features in the first collection of 14 paintings – described as a “riot of colour” – which have been hung in Bristol Beacon’s Glass Room, and will be launched in collaboration with the venue as a virtual exhibition shot by the Bristol Beacon team on February 3.

Later in the year, the paintings will be showcased as part of the Super Cool Drawing Machine exhibition, a celebration of the visual art created by a host of internationally acclaimed touring musicians set to run from May 20-23 at Bristol Beacon.

Exhibition curator Lee Dodds said: “We have been working with Jeff for a couple of years now, after discovering his brilliant talent after he posted a photo of “Raggs” on Facebook.

“We spoke to Jeff about buying the painting and asked him he has painted anything else.

“Jeff wasn’t sure if we were serious and that’s when a conversation began about sharing his work with the world!

“His paintings are uplifting and will definitely be popular with music fans and art collectors in Bristol and beyond.

“It’s also important to Jeff to use this moment to highlight and invite conversation about mental health issues and anxiety, and encourage others to use creative outlets to enable them to express their feelings.”

For exclusive news and to view the virtual exhibition, join the mailing list on Jeff’s website.

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