Mum to show art by son who starved after benefits slashed

Mum to show art by son who starved after benefits slashed

Pride: Jill Gant with some of her son Mark Wood’s artwork

Pride: Jill Gant with some of her son Mark Wood’s artwork.

NEWLY discovered artwork by a man who starved to death after his benefits were wrongly cut is to go on public display from tomorrow.

The works by Mark Wood were uncovered by his mother as she went through the task of clearing his house.

As she went through his belongings, Jill Gant discovered her son’s full collection of paintings, cartoons, writings and musical compositions.

She is now putting some of the work on show at Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, in an exhibition entitled The Spirit of Nature, which opens tomorrow.

Mrs Gant, 76, said she wanted to achieve her son’s goal of raising awareness of global threats to the natural environment.

She said: “His driving force was nature: he loved animals, wildlife, the landscape, and had a brilliant imagination.”

Mr Wood, who had Aspergers syndrome and cognitive behavioural problems, starved to death in August 2013 after his benefits were cut to just £40 a week.

Despite his condition, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contractor assessed that the 44-year-old from Bampton was fit to work.

The DWP has since admitted it was wrong.

Mrs Gant, who lost her husband the same year as her son, said Mr Wood’s sensitivity to the plight of the natural world made him like a “canary in the mine”

He moved out of London in 2002, she said, because he could no longer stand the pollution there.

Mrs Gant said: “Although he was very intellectually able, he wasn’t able to manage his own life.

“The main problem was he had extreme social embarrassment. It was almost as if he had a skin missing, he was always aware of other people looking at him.”

Unable to function in the outside world, Mr Wood created his own, painting landscapes from other worlds, and writing fantasy stories about humanity finding other planets to live on when the Earth’s natural resources run out.

Mrs Gant said her son had inadvertently sabotaged his last benefits assessment meeting, by downplaying just how bad his condition was. He was left with just £40 a week to live on, and a crushing fear of the outside world.
When he died from malnutrition, he weighed just over five stone.

Mrs Gant and Mr Wood’s sister Cathie have since campaigned to make the benefits system fairer for those with mental health problems.

Mrs Gant added: “His artwork is continuing to make an impact for good in the world.”

The free exhibition will be open from 10am to 4.30pm from tomorrow to Saturday, July 18.

Postcards and some artwork are available for sale from the gallery shop and from ecoartistmarkwood.org.uk, with proceeds going to mental health charity Mind.


The above article is written by Pete Hughes for oxfordtimes.co.uk  Find and share the original here.


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