Sunday, 11 May 2014
The gallery is full of herds. Herds of business suits. Herds of puffy skirts. Herds of art-house cool. It's all very frou-frou. I however am low key; jeans, blue jacket, Hermione Granger hair. We arrived forty minutes after the official opening by Dame someone or other, and the space is as full as a hornet's nest; humming and droning and reverberating. Cheeky so-and-so's, they're charging for the wine and prosecco, five pounds a pop. I'd assumed there'd be sparkling freebies at a private viewing, and olives on sticks; that's what you see in the movies. Oh well, I guess I could wait till the restaurant.
We head over, H and I, to where my brother's piece is stationed; hanging on a wall in front of the bar, next to the toilet entrance. Glamorous. But still, what an opportunity. My exceptionally talented brother's artwork... a portrait, graphite pencil on paper, entitled Deryugina. It looks like a photograph. I stand close, taking in the minuscule detail until it's a blur, like atoms. 'Isn't this wonderful,' says an appreciative voice behind me. Two women, both in their sixties, are smiling at the portrait, and I can't help myself, the kudos is simply too tempting, 'my brother did this,' I say, 'why don't you come and meet him?' And it just so happens that one of them is a member of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
My brother is busy networking, handing out and receiving business cards. H and I take a tour. More fancy clothes. Frills that are waterfalls, floral leggings, very pointed shoes, like knives. We spot a couple of dated celebrities; Michael Portillo (of all people) and Floella Benjamin (let's look through the round window), who's looking shockingly good at sixty-four. Some of the portraits I'm not so sure about. A white haired man dressed in fuchsia tracksuit stood in front of a settee, a radiator behind and paintings on a wall. 'Who paints radiators?' H asks, and she's qualified to judge, she's an exceptionally talented artist herself. There's a small self-portrait of a woman's face, and clearly there's a lack of self-esteem here; all her features are smudged away, only the outline of her face and frame of auburn hair. She looks dug-out and ghostly. Where would you hang her? In the downstairs loo?
I think about the classical portraiture of centuries before; the pomp, the ruffles, the arm draped over a velvet-lined table, and study its modern day equivalent; pin-striped business men, self satisfied, posing in front of The City -The Gherkin - or proudly beside their red bricked country mansion. Nothings changed. The gaudy upper classes; still a seamless study in questionable ostentation. I giggle at Tony Blair's portrait, the not-so-ironic reference to Cool Britannia, of the Union Jack painted behind his head, making me think of the iconic (and cringe-making) image of that Oasis bloke with the PM.
We were all good to art, my two brothers and I, but J shone; I think his undetected dyslexia helped to hone his talent. Like a microscope in sharp focus, he kept on and on and on. He encourages Little A's creativity, always buying her felt tips and pencils and colouring books for birthdays and Christmas. He's taught her the precise skill of slinking a slinky over the top step, bellows out bedtime stories in earnest interpretations. Uncle J is very much the fun Uncle. His next big project is a portrait of the actor Robert Carlyle, you know, Begbie in Trainspotting. I really hope his time has come now, he's worked so hard for so many years; I can't help feeling proud of my youngest brother...
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