Paul Westcombe’s work was, like so much great art, born of boredom. Working as a car park attendant on a twelve hour shift, Westcombe started drawing on whatever material came to hand – London Underground receipts, toilet plungers, mop handles – and, especially, the paper coffee cups he’d just drained in an attempt to stay awake.
These cups became the ideal surface for Westcombe’s wildly carnivalesque drawings of the sort of neurotic thoughts that plague the mind in solitary moments, their titles – Sex is Boring with Me, You’re Hardly Ever Here And When You’re Here You’re Bored – forming a self deprecating running commentary on the drawings’ own unbridled visions.
Combining Hieronymus Bosch’s hellish distortions of the human body with Viz magazine’s lurid satires of middlebrow taste, Westcombe’s drawings are at once spontaneous and measured, casual (their surfaces speckled with dripped coffee) and baroque in their flamboyant grotesqueries.
Westcombe’s art isn’t about the elevation of the ephemeral, but about the compulsiveness of the act of drawing: that creation itself, regardless of its environment, medium, or raison d’être, can be something transcendent. In that context, his image of Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (in the work Spurgeon) may not quite be as satirical as it seems: Westcombe’s work has all the relentless energy and rhetorical intensity of a fire and- brimstone sermon in full fly.
Text by Ben Street