This idea grew out of a chance conversation with my friend Graham Coster, publisher of Safe Haven Books. I’d been reading Janet Malcolm’s fabulous The Silent Woman, about her exploration of the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, in which she describes writing a letter to a fellow biographer – and then not sending it. Her analysis of the motives that made her write, but not send, the letter is fascinating: the unsent letter, Janet Malcolm suggests, would be an interesting genre for study. In fact, Graham said to me, it would make a good book. And then he said: ‘When are you going to write it?’
So I did – with his help in researching and sourcing letters from history, literature, diaries and elsewhere. Letters written in anger and then thought better of, letters that no longer needed to be sent because writing them was therapy enough, and letters that remained undelivered because of mishap, misdirection or some other intervention. Plus letters that were expected but never arrived (and even some that did arrive, but were then treated by the recipient as though they hadn’t…). It was a chance to revisit favourite books – everything from Iris Murdoch and Dorothy L. Sayers to Anthony Buckeridge’s school stories (the unsent drafts of Jennings’ and Darbishire’s first postcards home are an enduring delight) – and to investigate the circumstances that left sometimes quite significant letters quietly, poignantly, unsent.
The title, incidentally, comes from a letter of Emily Dickinson’s (later turned into a poem): her point was that letters are like unexploded bombs, carrying material that can wreak havoc in our lives, so we should be careful what we write.
What a Hazard a Letter is: The Strange Destiny of the Unsent Letter is published by Safe Haven Books on 20 September, price £14.99.
Wrapping paintings for delivery after our exhibition at 54 The Gallery, Shepherd Market – a really lovely week in a beautiful gallery hidden away in the backstreets of Mayfair. Surrounded by cafés, and well away from the traffic, it felt more like continental Europe than central London, and the glorious weather gave the whole week a happy buzz. In some ways it felt like a holiday – but we worked hard too, selling well and making loads of new contacts. Thank you to everyone who came and saw our pictures – whether you bought, or just found the time to discuss our work with us, we really enjoyed seeing you.
I’m exhibiting this month alongside three brilliant artists at 54 The Gallery, Shepherd Market, in Mayfair. The show is going to be packed with colour and drama – and it’s a wonderful venue, surrounded by cafés, restaurants and other galleries (with the Royal Academy only a five-minute walk away). Really looking forward to it – and hope to see lots of friends and artists there.
TAKE 4 runs from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27th May, 10am – 6pm.
Nearest tube: Green Park
I’m finishing frames for an exhibition with friends and fellow artists Penny Sandeman and Sarah Rivett-Carnac, which opens on 27th September at the Piers Feetham gallery in Fulham. It should be an interesting mix of work – Penny paints wonderful portraits and Sarah has been working on a new collection of dramatic abstracts. And it’s a lovely space to exhibit in: the three of us had a joint show there in May 2013, and we’re very happy to be back.
Piers Feetham Gallery, 475 Fulham Road, London SW6 1HL (just opposite the Chelsea football ground: nearest tube Fulham Broadway). www.piersfeethamgallery.com
The nice people I work for at YOU magazine commissioned me to write a piece on getting a picture into last year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. It involved being photographed in the galleries wearing ‘bright summery clothes’ (not my usual style) and standing rather gormlessly in front of my painting while that morning’s visitors to the exhibition tried not to look too curious. When the photographer had finished, one of them approached me and said, ‘Could I ask – are we meant to know who you are?’ Sadly, no. (You can find the story using the link below.)
I’ve been elected a member of the Chelsea Art Society, which is a rather nice thing to have happened. It was founded in 1910 by the painter and lithographer James Dromgole Linton (who during his lifetime was president of various institutions including the Royal Society of Oil Painters) and it holds an annual summer exhibition at Chelsea Old Town Hall, in the Kings Road. I’ve shown there for the last few years, and will be there again in June (Thursday 16th – Monday 20th).
This is peak exhibition season. I’ve just had a couple of paintings in the show that’s held every April in the Holland Park Orangery, just off Kensington High Street. It’s a beautiful building, and the exhibition always includes intriguing ceramics (and masses of good, unframed work in the browser racks) as well as packing them in on the walls.
No luck with the the Royal Academy this year, but I’m getting work ready for an exhibition at the Piers Feetham Gallery, in the Fulham Road, in September. More on that in future posts…
In the meantime, there are other artists to catch up with – I still haven’t seen the Giorgione exhibition at the Royal Academy, or the Botticelli drawings at the Courtauld. And I want to go back for another look at the wonderful portraits of Russian writers, composers, actors and painters at the National Portrait Gallery: Russia and the Arts – an incredibly moving, vivid impression of the figures who galvanised Russian culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The exhibition is over for another year, and my painting is no longer mine; it’s now going home with its new owner. I shall miss it – it’s a picture I believed in and am fond of.
I’ve also loved treating the RA as a second home for the summer, and discovering new works each time I visited. Favourites have
included the two Arthur Neal paintings (‘Studio and Garden’ and
‘Corner of the Studio’); ‘Egg Box’ by Adrienne Blake; two beautifully
subtle variations on a theme of white, ‘Trance Map’ by Trevor Sutton and ‘From Vauxhall Bridge’ by Andy Finlay; and the extraordinary, prize-winning Man on Fire sculpture by Tim Shaw RA. And of course Tom Phillips RA’s Humument – a whole room of his re-imagined,
intricately illustrated book pages, each one a poem in its own right. I couldn’t resist buying my own copy of the bound edition.
26th July 2015
I’m delighted to have a painting in this year’s Summer Exhibition. ‘Chinese Lanterns’ is hung in the same gallery as the huge Grayson Perry tapestry – along with really beautiful works by (among others) Arthur Neal, Simon Wright, Georgina Allen, Frank Bowling RA and Terry Setch RA.
The exhibition runs until 16th August – masses to see if you haven’t been yet.