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The Lost Art of a Lost Artist

Andrew Male, Mojo magazine, Feb 2000


Syd's paintings found in attic

Throughout history there have been many musicians with misguided artistic aspirations, as anyone in possession of 'an original Ron Wood' would attest. However, when MOJO published a 1967 personal ad from Rave magazine in their June '99 issue - asking how a certain Vivien Brans might get in touch with one David Gilmour - we had no idea of the creative riches lay in store.

"Vivien's my aunt," explains 39-year old Phillip James, "she was part of the '60s Cambridge set, mooching from coffee house to coffee house. She went out with Syd Barrett in 1965 before she went out with Dave." More significantly, during Vivien Brans' time with Barrett she accrued letters, sketches and abstract paintings from the former Camberwell art student, while young Phillip sat for the two watercolour portraits seen at the top of the page.

"I wish I could remember more about it," says James, "because I grew up to be a big Syd fan, but I was only six at the time. I remember being told to sit still and I remember he was tall and dark and gave me a pen which didn't work."

Most of Syd's letters and sketches for Vivien were thrown out when she first moved up to London. "She's got a little ink drawing he did of her with a poem but that's it. She probably thought it was a bunch of letters that didn't mean anything. To her it was just someone in the past."

Cambridge resident James still sees Syd cycling to the chemists and shopping in Marks & Spencer. "He likes a bonfire in his garden and he likes to paint his door different colour. Apparently he still paints on canvas but once he's finished a painting, he burns it."

James recently took the Syd paintings to Christies who wanted to auction them but, he says, were unable to value them.

"They're probably worth a lot to someone who's prepared to pay the price," says James. "Apparently Bowie's a big collector. If he wanted to buy me a flat in Regent's Park I might sell."


Syd Barrett: Scattered Needles
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