Michelangelo said: “a man paints with his brains and not with his hands”. Alan Joyce painted with his brains, his heart, his soul, brushes, knives and even the occasional syringe. That’s what made him a true modern master and whose creativity is now being shown through a retrospective art exhibition in Basildon.

Alan, who died in 2013 from liver failure, had two major periods of painting during his life- the results of which lay undiscovered in a old garden shed until after his passing. Hidden away from the world and even from his family.

Like many artists before him Alan struggled with mental and physical problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and addiction. Perhaps these made his art all the more poignant and all the more spectacular.

A selection of Alan’s large acrylic on canvas pieces are now on show for the public to view at the Basildon Eastgate Art Gallery under the title the Devourer of Souls.

Many of his works celebrate the human form in various waysits strength and vitality, its fragility, how it begins and how it must end.

Vin Harrop, curator of the gallery, said: “We have chosen to exhibit Alan’s work evocatively of how it was found by his family – in an old tumble down shed at the end of the garden, with no windows and roof. Old belongings on the floor and ivy growing through the canopy.

“Alan’s work is big, bold and challenging and provocative but at the same time in the classical tradition of fine art with lashings of acrylics, pen inks, waster colours and a mastery of technique.

“Alan used brushes, knives and syringes to apply his paints and many of his colours were painstakingly mixed from natural powders.

“We can only wonder at the fact that Alan painted at home, on the living room floor, with his two young children playing alongside.”

Alans work is known as ‘conceptual art’ and his family and friends say his mind was consumed by an encyclopaedic understanding of philosophy, politics, history, music, mythology, literature and the natural world which is reflected in his work, which explores ideas, images and symbols.

“Although his work can be grouped into several headings the common thread throughout is a fascination with the eternal human truths of life and death,”

added Vin.

“Artists have often fought to surpass the limits imposed by their own mind and body, their environment and the social and political context in which they live. The act of stimulating creativity is often perceived as part of this process and for Alan drugs and alcohol became both a way of living with his inner self and stimulus, fuelling his creativity with visionary passion, “The fine line with creative madness and genius is well documented and Alan often lived on this line both involuntary because of his own personal make-up and voluntarily through his use of drugs and alcohol.”

Alan was born and schooled in Basildon before studying fine art at St Martin’s School of Art in London in 1977 at the age of 17.

The son of Patrick Joyce, a trade union activist and Sylvia, a headteacher and accomplished artist herself, Alan grew up in a household where critical thinking, literature and art were part of everyday life.

In November the exhibition will switch to feature a selection of Alan’s pen, ink and watercolour pieces in a display entitled There’s a Spectre Haunting Europe.

Pre-empting Banky’s Dismaland by two decades, this exhibition will include some of Alan’s works on Mickey Mouse, described as a “wittily stark and humourous commentary of the political underpinnings of modern cultural icons”.

Fittingly, Ricky McCarthy, project co-ordinstor of Basildon’s TSX Shadyfish Xperiance – a voluntary organisation which aims to engage and support people with mental health problems through art – was asked to open the Devourer of Souls exhibition on Friday.

Ricky said: “As someone who has suffered from many of the same disorders as Alan Joyce.

“I have now spent the last seven years helping others to deal with similar issues such as depression and addiction.

Even though I still suffer from bi-polar it’s my work that keeps me going. I am saddened that I did not know Alan, but honoured that I was asked to open this retrospective exhibition.”