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Sudbury sign writer Wayne Tanswell's Oxymorons exhibition sheds light on work of domestic abuse charity Compassion



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Tough love. Alone and together. Quiet riot. Amicable divorce.

The common thread between all four statements is that each one is an oxymoron – a figure of speech in which the different parts of the phrase contradict each other.

While waiting two years for a chance to exhibit his collection of unique letter art, Sudbury sign writer Wayne Tanswell realised that many of the phrases also linked in with a cause close to his heart.

Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459750)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459750)

The veteran artist and author is now showcasing his latest solo exhibition, titled Oxymorons, at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds until next month, to raise money and awareness for Compassion, a Suffolk-based domestic abuse charity.

The collaboration was inspired after Mr Tanswell connected with the charity’s Great Cornard-based founder, Cathy Press, who he has known for decades since they attended secondary school together, to seek help for a close friend.

“Cathy and I both went to Sudbury Upper School in the 1970s,” the 57-year-old told Suffolk News. “She has been a really close friend for years, and I’m actually the godfather to her daughter.

Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459750)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459750)

“She told me that Compassion has been really busy recently, because there has been a huge increase with domestic abuse issues during lockdown.

“Compassion has always said that it’s not just women who are victims of abuse, it can be men as well and, at the time, I was talking about someone close to me, who happened to be a man, who needed help.

“I wanted to do something for charity, as a thank you to Compassion for helping someone dear to me.

Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459748)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459748)

“With my exhibition having been cancelled twice because of Covid, I looked through all of the oxymorons and so many of them had this common theme that also tied into the issue of domestic abuse.

“A lot of my oxymorons were relevant, so it seemed appropriate. We are all aware that domestic violence increased massively during lockdown, so it was obvious to me that I needed to get behind the charity that addresses such issues.”

The exhibition consists of a series of paintings of the contradictory statements, while descriptions have also been written by Compassion, explaining how each phrase links to the experiences of abuse victims.

Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459753)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459753)

To support the charity, Mr Tanswell has produced 100 limited edition prints of a 10-square-foot painting of four oxymorons, painted in a pop art-influenced style.

The prints are being sold at The Apex during the exhibition, which began last week and runs until Sunday, July 10.

Mr Tanswell, who operates out of The Sign Studio at the Stour Valley Business Centre in Sudbury, added: “I’m an established artist now, but I’m really fortunate that I get to do what I do and that I’m able to keep busy.

Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459755)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459755)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459754)
Sudbury signwriter Wayne Tanswell has launched a new exhibition called ‘Oxymorons’ to raise money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity, Compassion....Picture: Mecha Morton. (57459754)

“I’m really excited about this exhibition because, from speaking to other sign writers in some forums I’m a part of, I don’t think there has ever been an exhibition like this before in the UK.

“It’s definitely an unusual combination of an art exhibition and a domestic abuse charity, but it’s nice for us to be able to come together to support this great cause.”