Artists put @backround_bob centre frame

International artists are collaborating with a disabled 12-year-old painter from Essex to put on his first show, for charity.

Using his tag of @background_bob, Noah (his family want to keep his full name and address secret) has created 240 pictures with artists from Colombia to Australia for the exhibition at Firstsite, Colchester, @background_bob and his amazing friends, running from October 24 to January 31.

Noah, who is confined to a wheelchair, began painting vibrant, colourful abstracts on pieces of cardboard when he was unable to go to school during the Covid lockdown. “It was just something to keep us busy” said his stepfather, Nathan Jones, “but it soon escalated from there”.

Impressed by the results, Nathan posted on Instagram inviting artists to use Noah’s paintings as background for their own creations and got more than 80 responses from mostly street artists in eight different countries, including the UK. They included the comedian Phill Jupitus. Noah gets care at Colchester General Hospital and key workers there have also contributed work.

There are evocations of superheroes, Lego characters, wildlife and tributes to Old Masters. The main image here is by the Hamburg-based artist Anna Schellberg, who has shown at the Saatchi Gallery.

“I think people will love seeing the exhibition” said Sally Shaw, director of Firstsight. “It not only gives a platform to a local artist with disabilities but it is also very relatable, in that it captures the mood of the public during lockdown.

“The @background_bob project also brought people together, encouraging everyone to be creative, whether they identify as being an artist, or ‘arty’, or not. This is something that we do regularly here at the gallery, with exhibitions curated between our staff and members of the public, many of whom may be engaging with art and selecting artworks for a show for the very first time. 

The project will leave a legacy with the art being for sale at the end of the exhibition and the proceeds going to the Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity, s well as a book compiled by Noah and Nathan.

“We are very proud to have been offered the opportunity to display all of Noah’s collaborations” Nathan Jones said. “This is a big deal for us. We are regular visitors to Firstsite and it’s the perfect place for us to show off our stunning collection, and bring a little happiness to our home town and surrounding areas.”

For more information about @background_bob and his amazing friends  follow @firstsite on Twitter, @firstsitecolchester on Instagram, like the Firstsite Colchester Facebook page or visit 



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