Monday, June 19: The wasted landscapes in the aftermath of the Buncefield blast could have come straight from a sci-fi film according to artist Phil Ashcroft whose images of the event feature in an exhibition due to open next week.

Paintings, prints and digital landscapes by renowned illustrator Phil, who designed the Godzilla film poster, will be on show in St Albans from Wednesday next week (June 28).

The solo exhibition, by the 35-year-old artist noted for his apocalyptic landscapes devoid of human existence, is titled 'Toxicity' and will run from 11am to 5pm every Wednesday to Saturday at the University of Hertfordshire's Margaret Harvey Gallery in Hatfield Road until Saturday 29 July.

Phil, from Greenwich, visited the Buncefield site in Hemel Hempstead in the weeks after the oil depot explosion on December 11 last year to photograph and sketch the scenes on which he based his works.

He said: "I also researched the internet for images. I did not want to glorify the event and would not have approached the subject if anyone had been killed. My works are not a celebration but I'm very interested in sci-fi, especially British sci-fi, and Buncefield and its aftermath seemed such an unreal event to have happened in a suburban setting. The scenes could have come straight from a Dr Who episode of the 1970s."

Phil, who has a post-graduate diploma in illustration from St Martin's College of Art and Design, will also be running weekend workshops for young people at the gallery on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June as well as Saturday July 1.

Tickets cost 5 for Ashcroft's weekend workshops on street art and can be booked on 01707 285310 or email

A German artist has also unveiled a unique work commemorating the Buncefield disaster using a collection of rubble sent from the scene of the explosion by Hemel Hempstead firefighters.

Juergen Stieler, 50, who lives in Flensburg in the north of Germany, asked for the debris so he could create a limited run of prints using a special pressing technique.

The prints will be auctioned on eBay but one lucky Gazette reader has the chance to get their hands on the first copy thanks to a competition being run this week.

Juergen created the prints using copper plates which incorporated CDs he asked firefighters to scratch with rubble from the oil depot site.

He also used some of the ash and soot sent to him to create a form of paint.

"I thought that it would be an event to be kept in memory because of the event itself and as a kind of warning for the future – to keep in mind that you cannot be sure and safe of anything," Juergen said.

"When I learned that nobody had died I wrote a letter to Hemel Hempstead Fire Station with a prepared envelope asking for some samples and for them to scratch the CDs I sent them with material or earth or sand from the scene.

"When I got the envelope with the stuff I opened it and they reminded me by their smell of a damage control course I took in the Navy 20 years ago when I tried to extinguish burning oil and diesel and the intense heat I felt under my protection suit – it must have been hell," he added.

The Gazette has teamed up with Juergen to offer one lucky reader a copy of one of his prints.

To get your hands on the unique artwork simply answer the following question:

Artist Juergen Stieler is from which European country?

a) Romania

b) Italy

c) Germany

Send your answer to: Buncefield art competition, The Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 39 Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, Herts, HP1 1LH.


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