For the last 50 years naughty sketches of penises and vulvas on beer mats have been appearing in pubs across the West Midlands. The mystery was finally solved last month when pensioner, John Arthur Wheeler (age 75) appeared in court. John had been dubbed the Black Country Banksy for his somewhat risqué and often downright explicit sketches, that he always signed with his initials AJW. As the years progressed, his images have become even naughtier, but he has finally been caught and charged with public decency offences, as a result of leaving his naughty pictures in community centres, public toilets and libraries.
In court,Wheeler, claimed that he had been inspired by the art of Pablo Picasso. He escaped a jail sentence, but has been told he is not allowed to leave home with any ‘pictorial representations depicting naked men or women, buttocks, genitalia or female breasts’ other than for the purposes of exhibiting them in a public art exhibition.
Judge James Burbidge said: ‘It’s very odd to see a man like you at court but outraging public decency is a serious offence. You believe you have ability as an artist – that may be – but the way you have set about displaying your drawings is offensive. You regularly left lewd drawings in public houses, public stations and libraries for people to see who would not wish to see them.’ Furthermore, the judge told Wheeler that any reference to himself as the Banksy of the Black Country was unacceptable as, ‘Banksy makes drawings of public importance – attracting social comment.’
In his defence, his lawyer,Graham Russell, told the court that Wheeler had ‘achieved some renown in the community’ for his drawings.’ When describing Picasso as an influence on Wheeler, Mr Russell he referred to the later stages of his life, saying ‘whose career also ended with sketches which art critics described as nothing more than pornographic fantasy’.