My friend Anneke is an installation artist. She can make the most wondrous things. And every time she has an exhibition of her work anywhere, I go -- usually to help set things up as much as to offer support.
This time, the work she was exhibiting was photographs and drawings rather than installations, and I was looking forward to seeing these on their own, not being used as part of her usual art. Having dated a photographer once, and being no mean photographer myself, I take a particular interest in photography, and I knew Anneke had a good eye and was confident that I would be able to appreciate and understand the pictures she'd selected to show us.
She wasn't exhibiting on her own (I don't think she ever does, to be honest), but was sharing the gallery space with her friend Edith, who is an 'earth artist'. Basically, that means she works with all kinds of mud; travelling around the world, she collects silts from all over, and fashions it into small vessels, female torsos, and uses it to paint with.
Anneke's pictures and drawings dealt with mirrors, mirror images, and distortions, and sparked a lot of interest from various quarters, which had her reeling a bit. It never ceases to amaze me how, contrary to most artists I know, she never seems convinced that what she does is truly amazing or inspired. She never bothers with thinking up elaborate explanations for her art, never tries to imbue it with a certain social relevance, never bullshits you like that, and I find that utterly refreshing.
We got to the gallery a little early and the gates were still closed, so we went over the road to Starbucks for a cup of tea and, for me, a chocolate mint surprise.
When Edith drove up, bringing the keys and her own personal assistant Odette and a dreadlocked young man whose name I never caught, we dumped our stuff (drinks, nibblies, cakes etc) in the little kitchen in the back, and had a quick look round the displays.
The picture that had fallen and had had to be replaced, now had to be hung, so for the next hour or so Anneke and I busied ourselves with the hanging and re-arranging of the photographs (24x36 inches) while Edith and her gang made everything in order on their side. In the course of which, I found that another of the pictures had been severely damaged, having been chipped and scratched in one corner. Having been mounted on fomex, and not framed, these objects are quite vulnerable, and the slightest mishap could damage them. There was nothing could be done about this now, though.
People started arriving, and for the rest of the afternoon and early evening, I was rushed off my feet making smalltalk with interested parties, making them feel at ease, making them tea, offering them home-baked gingerbread, and forever doing the washing up at the sink. Towards the end of the show, Anneke remarked that I would make a fantastic personal assistant to any artist, if I could ever be persuaded to a change of career. I had such patience! Poor deluded Anneke! I'm only patient because I care about her, and her art.
I had dressed up in plain unadorned black for two reasons: so as not to detract from the surrounding art too much, and to show off my beautiful new boots (the size 7 ones) to best advantage. To my mind, these to motivations aren't mutually exclusive, even if they may seem so written down.
It worked: most of the public complimented me on my choice of boots, and one woman even asked whether they had been done by one of the artists, too!
After the last guest had left, and we had cleared everything away and packed our stuff, we locked the gates again and said goodbye to Edith, Odette and the handyman; and then drove to Golders Green where Anneke's daughter was working late as a fitness instructor. We left the car parked outside her place of work, and while Anneke dropped off the keys for her, Bobby drove up to collect us. Totally pooped, Anneke and I agreed we didn't feel like going out for a meal, so instead we got shoarmas from a take-away and went straight home.
The rest of the evening were spent trying to discover some sort of storyline in the BBC's new costume drama, Charles II. After watching the first two episodes, we declared ourselves quite disappointed...although I must admit, Rufus Sewell's quite nice-looking in it.