10 March 2024

Wrexham artist paints faces of people in community to remember local ‘legends’

10 March 2024

An artist from Wrexham has been painting portraits of homeless people and local “legends” to remember and showcase the individuals who have made their mark on the community.

Ady Medcalf, 74, said he undertook volunteer work with a homeless charity in 2017, where he started painting portraits from photographs of homeless people in the area to tell their story and show they “have a face”.

The grandfather-of-four then began painting “the characters in Wrexham”, some of whom have died, in order to display and commemorate the “well-known faces” in the Welsh city.

Mr Medcalf said he aims to paint one or two portraits each week, sharing photos of his works to a local Facebook group – without identifying those in the painting to allow others to recognise the person depicted.

“I think it just chronicles the people that are in Wrexham, the characters in Wrexham,” Mr Medcalf, who is retired and worked in a factory for 18 years, told the PA news agency.

“I started off volunteering for a homeless charity and I got to know the homeless people in Wrexham.

“I started painting them as a way of showing that the person sitting in the alleyway, or sitting in the shop window, has a face, as people tend to look away from them when they pass.

“I then gravitated onto the people in the pubs in Wrexham, the older people, the legends of Wrexham and the well-known faces, the characters.”

He added that painting the faces of those who were homeless allowed others in the community to “get to know them”.

“It was interesting because they’re not the people that you think they are,” he said.

“They’ve all got a story but some people don’t want to listen – but I listened, I sat and painted them and I enjoyed it.

“People that have passed away through drug use, for example, are remembered and it’s good.”

As well as sharing the portraits on Facebook in something of an “online exhibition space”, Mr Medcalf said he also occupies two walls “filled with paintings” at the Yellow and Blue community hub in Wrexham, where he switches the art around every few weeks.

The latest portrait in his ongoing project, which he shared online on Friday, featured the face of a well-known DJ named Mark who died earlier this year, allowing those on the Facebook group to remember him and pay tribute.

“I like to tell a story about them, like Mark, who was a well-known DJ and many, many people knew him,” he said.

“It’s a way of remembering people.

“If somebody local has died, I try to paint them to put their picture up because often it’s the only thing that people have got to remember them.”

Mr Medcalf, who kept a pub for six years, will also paint those who frequent the local watering holes, whom he called “the regulars of Wrexham”.

“I’ve known them for years, maybe I don’t know their names but I know their faces, and it’s nice to sit down and chat to people,” he said.

“I paint who I can as much as I can, when I can get my hands on a photograph of somebody.

“I find that when I’m painting, all the troubles drop off my shoulders and I get immersed in what I’m doing.”

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