A war veteran, turned painter, from Swindon has had his work selected for a prestigious art exhibition at La Galleria in London.
Four artistic ex-veterans from across the UK have been selected to exhibit their work in a charity exhibition 'Art in the Aftermath'. Taking place at La Galleria in Pall Mall, London, - from 6 November to 18 November - one of the artists displaying their work is Chris Delni Offord from Swindon.
The event is being hosted by the charity Style for Soldiers, founded by Emma Willis MBE. Since 2008 Emma, who is best known for her shirt designs for the royals, has been assisting servicemen through their rehabilitation by fitting them bespoke clothing to boost their confidence and morale. This month her charity - as well as supermodel David Gandy and the Telegraph’s Fashion Editor Lisa Armstrong - is aiming to help servicemen through art.
Chris said: “Between the three of them [Emma, David and Lisa] they wanted to promote the idea of giving veterans a different voice through fashion. The first way was through clothing them and designing them clothes, and Emma’s already done that, so what they’re doing now is to extend that into the artworld. So that’s how they got hold of me and the other artists."
After serving in the army for 22 years, Chris pursued a new career path through painting – he has been practicing his craft for the last 25 years and has been a professional artist for the last four. During this time Chris has also set up Kingdom Arts Foundation, Redhouse, which assists working artists enabling them to share techniques, exhibit their work and network through weekly workshops at Kingdom House Coffee. For the next nine days ‘Art in the Aftermath’ is putting the spotlight on him.
Chris added: “The three other artists are veterans with various injuries and, I can’t speak for them, but where I’ve been in the art industry for a while – and struggling like every other artist – what they’re doing is sponsoring artists and pushing them into areas we would never ever dream to be.”
Chris initially contacted Emma asking for advice as she is heavily embedded in the world of art and, unbeknown to Chris at the time, this would lead to Emma selecting him as one of four exhibiting artists in ‘Art in the Aftermath’. The art works, displayed in various formats, resonate with the artists’ personal experiences from their time in the army. For his piece Chris selected his painting ‘Wings of Hope’.
Chris said: "My work resonated with Emma because through Style for Soliders she is saying ‘I’m going to put this shirt on you so that you get more self-esteem – help you can look the best you can’. I want to be a successful artist after coming out from a career in the army.
"I’ve spent a lot of time helping other people and you just wish that they can get some initial help. I first got in contact with her by writing her a letter asking her for some advice - because she’d already given advice to other artists – in the marketing world and the art world. I didn’t expect her to take me to an exhibition! I just knew she was doing stuff in the art world because my friend was doing it with her – I had no idea about the exhibition. I feel extremely privileged.
“I was extremely ill in 1999 through something that happened, - I nearly lost my life – but I got through it and then I was discharged from the army in 2002. So since then I’ve been doing all sorts of stuff – mainly charity work. I’m fortunate because I’ve got some money behind me, slightly, but others haven’t and so I recognised that, and I just wanted to help. I’ve got seven artists now just in Redhouse coming to the workshops – there’s 37 altogether. It’s really popular.”