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Painter Terry has a brush with prison, and says it was brilliant

By David Young

Published 07/02/2009

An artist who counts Bono among his admirers went to prison yesterday — to take a painting class for inmates.

Terry Bradley, famous for his striking portraits of burlesque dancers, said he found it easier to relate to inmates at Magilligan prison in Northern Ireland than many high-brow art critics.

The Belfast-born artist went to the Co Londonderry facility at the invitation of a prisoner studying for an A level in art.

“I am a working class guy and the fine art world is so highbrow and closed off,” Bradley said.

“I feel more at home among ordinary people. The guys in here have been punished for making mistakes and if I can help them, of course I will.

“I had no qualifications or any art training but I was able to make it through a combination of hard work, persistence and talent. If I can inspire them a bit and help turn their lives around, it would be fantastic.”

Bradley’s stylised paintings of exotic dancers and heavily tattooed underworld figures have won him critical praise across the globe.

Sean Nawaz, the inmate who contacted the painter, said his work had also had a great influence on him.

“It is so different, so striking and has begun a whole new trend in art,” he said.

“It is completely different from anything I have ever seen before. I was very nervous before meeting him today but he is a very friendly guy. It is a big thing for him to take the time to come to the prison and see us. It has been a really fantastic experience.”

Magilligan art teacher Allison Wilson said she was surprised when Bradley accepted the invitation to visit and speak to her class.

“I would like to thank Terry for coming here today,” she said.

“It has meant so much to the whole class for him to come into the prison. This will certainly help to inspire them and give them the confidence to explore different aspects of art.”

Bradley said he was already planning to return to the prison to take some art workshops.

“Today was a powerful experience for me. It was brilliant, I really enjoyed it. I appreciate what it meant to the guys and it was fantastic for me to be able to speak to them.”

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