Walk into Arch 402 Gallery and my boyfriend notes with enthusiasm that this is the gallery that hosted ‘The Apprentice’ Season 8, Episode 8. Takes a video of me outside to show his flatmate Fred who will be excited about this. Man stands by entrance slouched smoking a fag and contemplating something. Quite empty inside, see Simon and remind him where we met, at the Dean Swift on Gainsford Street because I was sketching and he asked if I was an artist. He showed me his art on his phone and I told him it was good and reminded me of my ex boyfriend’s work. Then I went home and looked him up and he had been described by Lucien Freud as ‘the most promising British artist in Britain in 2012’ and I felt stupid that I’d compared to him to my ex boyfriend, even though Sam is good. Its fun to sit outside on a pleasant summer evening, writing on an empty stomach and a light head whilst Foxy, [boyfriend] frames my face and rests static pretending we are an art installation piece. ‘How do you feel about the graffiti?’ Says a drunk man who, by the pungent smell he exudes has been eating Italian food and garlic bread. Foxy stands up to chat to the man he ‘enjoys’ whilst I remain seated twisting my head to look at this graffiti. Don’t think it adds anything to the gallery but it may have affected my impression unconsciously, as in Hoxton and increasingly elsewhere, it is the gallery and its surroundings which constitute the experience not just the paintings on the wall. Which is a good thing in this case because apart from Burton and Madeleine Strindberg’s work, I am not enchanted. It’s a good interior with a nice brick ceiling and ambient lighting and the place is filling. Burton’s work is more subtle than the rest. Without screaming ‘what am I saying?!’ it draws you in and makes you ponder over it without realising. ‘Digital, man, is gonna blow you away.’ I get up to join in the conversation with Foxy and the man, who is a photographer. Burton’s painting is interesting firstly and secondly because of the fags and the eyes. The face is curious because it doesn’t make sense. The eye on the left neither correlates with the left face nor the right. This is something I realised after covering both faces in succession with my hand. The photographer again. Jonathan is his name and he comments that I ‘spend a lot of time writing on [Foxy’s] back’ to which I wittily reply ‘he’s always at my back and call’. This was not funny but the man was very intoxicated and either didn’t hear or didn’t mind. Glad I got here early so I could talk to Simon, now heavily in demand. We’re hogging his painting now. How does he get that face texture? Does the fact his two paintings are exhibited in different rooms mean anything? Probably not. Talked to another man about his life and how he enjoys talking to children but it’s a shame that now he’s retired and free to chat to them, he’s also old and feels like mothers may assume he is a paedophile. Looking at Burton’s other painting, retired ‘paedo’ man agrees that Burton is the most interesting of the lot, along with Madeleine Strindberg. It really is interesting that biographical insight – knowing or meeting the artist – increases ones curiosity around a particular painting. Maybe I am just biased to Simon Burton’s incredibly elusive, introspective, visually fascinating paintings.
‘The more I drink the more interesting I become’ Jonathan says, moving his face closer and closer to me so that by ‘become’ his eyes are basically in my mouth.
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