Bruce Asbestos' Famous Pain Killer Invented Nearby. Photo Jim Brouwer


Jim Brouwer

On a site that was once ‘The New Gateway to Nottingham’s Eastside’ (owned by the infamous local property developer, ‘Secret Millionaire’ Chek Whyte) is a mural designed and painted by Bruce Asbestos.

This work explores the psychogeography of its locality, adding to one of the many local urban myths that have been incorporated into the Nottingham psyche.    

The idea is akin to arriving in a new city and having a chat with a taxi driver, for example; he discovers where you’re from and tries to regurgitate his dubious wisdom about that area based on a collection of loose anecdotes that he has picked up on his travels. Replace the word ‘painkiller’ with other Nottingham myths and legends and it could have a similar effect.  Folk legends, bikes, a football club, ice skaters and an 80‘s quiz show all spring to mind, (OK maybe not the last one).  

The main feature of this work is the ambivalence of the text, even though the words are very loaded. It asks us questions: which painkiller? and where? Teetering in the space between graffiti and public art, Asbestos has provided a talking point by referring to a received belief about the area, that the painkiller Ibuprofen was “invented” nearby.  

Asbestos was commissioned by BioCity to design and paint a mural on the walls opposite their science park on Pennyfoot Street. BioCity is not a stranger to hosting art, John Newling was artist in residence there for his The Clearing Hinterland project back in October 2009. 

BioCity is the UK's largest bioscience innovation science park and The Stewart Adams Building at the site is named after Dr Stewart Adams OBE, who (with John Nicholson) led the team at Boots that developed Ibuprofen in 1963.

The precise details of this work have become clouded by the passing of time; working in a studio space in the area, the artist heard anecdotes about the  discovery of the painkiller, but no one seemed to be able to give a firm confirmation of where exactly this work took place. Playing with ideas of collective myth and psychogeography - the idea that pedestrians and passers-by can be jolted into a new awareness of the urban landscape – the mural draws attention to both the past and present uses of the buildings in the area.

When painting the mural, Asbestos and his assistant were interrogated by a passer-by, who questioned whether they had permission to be painting the wall. The common perception of “street art” as vandalism is turned on its head by such a commission, which took three days to complete. Rather than being an impromptu piece of graffiti, the walls were first painted white and then each letter was stenciled using a laptop to project them onto the walls and a spirit level to mark the angles.

The mural will remain on the wall, until it gets graffitied or fades away. 

Bruce Asbestos BioCity ‘Famous’ mural can be seen at Pennyfoot Street Nottingham; opposite Machine Mart and Bio City