A MAJOR retrospective by Swindon artist David Bent opens at the Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town today.

Called Out of the Box, it showcases a broad range of subjects addressed by an artist best known for acclaimed aviation-themed pieces.

Works on show deal with themes including social justice, war and the global imbalance of wealth.

The exhibition space is next door to that of another exhibition opening today, which is devoted to portraits from the Swindon Collection.

David explained the purpose of Out of the Box, which was devised with the help of curator Sophie Cummings.

“It’s to try and broaden the perception of me as not only being an aviation artist but to give a broader perspective of my work over a longer period of time,” he said.

“There’s work in this exhibition that spans 50 years, and it’s a good opportunity for me in my adopted home town to show my work in Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.”

Pieces at the exhibition include paintings inspired by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Chernobyl and Lockerbie disasters.

There are paintings from a major series, Movement 2000, from the turn of the Millennium, which addressed refugee crises.

Among those who have praised Movement 2000 are Annie Vickers of the Swindon City of Sanctuary project, who said: “A full 15 years before Western Europe woke up to the refugee crisis, Dave was depicting the devastating impact of war and climate change.

“He’s probably best-known for his aviation pieces, but his compassion and sharp eye for contemporary events really pack a visual punch. It’s the subject matter, yes, but also the scale that makes them so unforgettable.

“To be able to see some of these pieces in the context of Dave’s wider work is a rare opportunity. How fortunate are we to have this happening in Swindon.”

The artist said: “Generally, with all of my work and this exhibition in particular, it’s more about asking questions than giving answers.

“Also, I have always hoped that my work has a visceral effect, that it works on the inner self, the emotions.

“I was brought up on the war artists. My first major influences were people like Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash.

“There’s a fine distinction between the aviation work and the broader social issues which mostly nowadays are linked to social conflicts.”

Out of the Box runs until June 1, and further information about this and other exhibitions can be found at swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk