You may remember that Geoff donated four pieces to the Sea Shepherd Auction at their 40th Anniversary Gala event: 2 posters signed by Gordon Banks for our charity No More Dodos, a photograph of Geoff's which had appeared in The National Maritime museum and an original sculptural painting - ' Hidden Deep .’ Like much of his work it was created using discarded paints in what he very much believes is his own idiosyncratic sculptural style.
What happened on that evening was quite magical. Some of you may find it unbelievable. It is likely to bring a tear of joy to your eye and possibly a friendly chill to your whole being.
Geoff takes up the story of what how the magic started and why. As always with Geoff, there is an animal as the catalyst. "I am always drawn to dogs and when I spotted a beautiful black labrador guidedog in the crowd, I just had to say hello to Kane.
Talking with his ward Sandi (Johnson), I learned she had begun to lose her sight aged 12 and now had no central vision and only deteriorating peripheral vision. She told me that she loved art but could not see anything like that without an extremely strong magnifying device and then only rarely since most things were locked away behind glass.
“Not this one. This was made for you to experience," I said and led her across to Hidden Deep, inviting her to run her hands across the canvas. At first she was quite tentative and timid in her approach.
The painting was created as a statement about the things that are hidden in the oceans, the dark deeds of humanity which Sea Shepherd inspiringly and bravely bring to the surface. I had dropped 3 threads of a deep red industrial paint on the surface to represent the destruction beneath, which differed in texture with a raised surface. When I guided her fingers to it, Sandi exclaimed “I have never experienced Art like this. I think I am going to cry.”
If there was ever a better justification of thirty years of my work than in those words, I have never heard it.
We talked in front of the painting for a long while and she asked what it was likely to sell at. At this point Kane decided it was time to take Sandi back to where she had been sitting. There was a lot of was a noise and Sandi did not hear the auction announcement.
Hidden Deep sold immediately. The purchasers were Vanessa and Nick Warwick. When Geoff went to thank them, he told them of Sandi’s experience, but omitted any indication that she would have liked to have bid.
The couple paid for the picture, during which time they had made the most wonderful decision. They went to Sandi and told her they wanted to give the painting to her.
Sandi was shocked and uncharacteristically speechless as tears trickled down her face. Over an hour later, she told Geoff that she was still shaking.
Everyone told has loved the story, which truly belongs to all of those involved (including Kane, the guide dog) of course. Reactions have been tears, clutching of hearts and real chills.
These are extracts from email exchanges between Sandi and the Warwicks.
Sandi says "I can’t really put into words how overwhelmed I was by your generous gift on Saturday night, it was such a kind thing to do.
"As you can see from the photos below, it takes pride of place in our kitchen dining room, closely guarded by Kane."
"Thank you so much again for your kindness, I have been telling friends and family the story and nobody can believe it!
Hope we meet again where I may have a little more to say for myself than the last time we met."
Nick says "The truth is that we (those that attended) were all, as a collective, the kindest people because we really genuinely care.
No one person was kinder. What WE are protecting is important.
The painting was, as I learned, always yours, only you could appreciate it by feel as much as we did by sight - it would be wrong to have kept it, as much as we liked it.
It makes us so happy that you have it in pride and place and we will never forget that. The painting looks perfect in its place."
Vanessa says “You seemed the perfect owner of the picture and, from the photos you have kindly sent us, it looks like it was made for that spot! We hope you enjoy your painting in the years to come.”
As indeed Sandi does, running her hands over the contours every day. And her hands still shake with the experience.
About Sea Shepherd UK
Sea Shepherd UK is a registered marine conservation charity whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife around the UK's coastline and across the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.
Sea Shepherd UK uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities committed against marine wildlife and habitats. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced oceanic ecosystems, Sea Shepherd UK works to ensure their survival for future generations.
Geoff (along with his fellow Animus colleagues Hilly Beavan and Anthony Lawrence) were long time admirers of Sea Shepherd from early on. In the early 80s Geoff organised the first Animal Rights album 'Animal Tracks' with Country Joe McDonald. All revenue went to Sea Shepherd. Animus created a record label to release this album and the single 'Blood on the Ice'.