Tuesday, June 29, 2021


It's finished, probably or definitely.

The painting I've been working on for some time.

Portrait of Dvorah Kadish, acupuncture and Shiatsu practitioner, friend and neighbour.

Friday, June 18, 2021


Stopping for afternoon lunch at a Turkish cafĂ© I sit down inside and order coffee with poached eggs on sourdough toast. While I wait I look around and, as usual, impressions flit through my head like butterflies. Across the room, sitting at a shelf-table against a wall decorated with black pipes which end up as lamps, a man is sitting, concentrating on a very small laptop. He is wearing a perfect light blue linen suit, striped blue socks and white trainers. His perfectly cut grey hair harmonises perfectly with the blue suit. I can only see part of his profile, perfectly smooth and lightly tanned. When he suddenly turns his head to look thoughtfully at the traffic passing by outside, I’m amazed that his nose is too long. I expected it to be the perfect size for his face. He wears earphones and is deeply involved in whatever he’s hearing and seeing on the screen. I am very curious to know what it is and can just about make out rectangles of text in various colours, dominated by a narrow yellow column. My guess is that it relates to advertising or architecture or some other profession beginning with A.

When my coffee is brought it’s lukewarm but I drink it anyway. The two eggs on toast are perfectly poached but also lukewarm. I eat them too. The Turkish manager (masked) comes over and asks respectfully, as if I am a VIP, if everything is allright. I smile and say yes, but everything is cold, the coffee, the eggs. The manager’s eyes seem distressed. He asks if I will accept another coffee on the house? I don’t really want more coffee but I say yes. When the new cup of coffee arrives it’s very hot. The man in the light blue suit is now talking into his device but, damn, with all the traffic noise I can’t hear what he’s saying.

I finish my lunch, put my mask back on, go home and write this down.

Saturday, June 12, 2021


Shani Rhys James' latest exhibition Hunan-Ynysu: Self-Island opened on Wednesday this week at the Connaught Brown Gallery at 2 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HD. I was there.

If you could enter - literally, physically enter - a space made of thick, gleaming oil colours passionately coaxed with brush and palette knife into recognisable forms and feelings, then you would experience something of the effect Shani’s paintings have on a viewer, at least this viewer. I deeply identify with her work precisely because of its bold, unapologetic self-exposure: all cards on the table, yes, but hidden within a veil, a mask of paint. That we were wearing Covid-necessary masks, limiting verbal communication, made the experience all the more metaphoric and relevant. Shani’s explosive flowers are darkness-dispelling incantations but it is the unsentimental, fully admitted darkness and sadness of the human figures which attracts and envelops me.

As a lifelong and long-lived artist I can’t claim objectivity about other artists’ work, past or present. Some intangible personal rhythm or note in the work of an individual artist or period of art has to resonate with me. Shani’s work, which I saw for the first time at this gallery two years ago, most definitely has the Aha! effect and it’s a great bonus that we have become friends as well.

If you are in London don’t miss this stunning exhibition. There’s an excellent, beautifully illustrated catalogue available from the gallery.