A few days ago a beautiful and unexpected situation developed between two random people who didn’t know each other.
This was made possible by curiosity to find a deeper purpose in life, passion for art and technology all coming together in collaboration. This is a story of a story, that is still evolving.
In my hometown of London, UK, back in 1989, when I was the ripe old age of 17, I was studying fine art as one of my A’Level subjects before progressing on to do my BA Honors degree in Sculpture at Chelsea College of Art & Design.
One of the projects I was assigned, was to paint a still life.
The little still life I created, was an oil painting of some eggs and an egg box. This little painting then proceeded to go on a journey. It passed the second round of selection for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1990, and then it ended up in the Richmond Hill Gallery, in Surrey, where I had several exhibitions during the early 1990s. During that time, it was mysteriously lost, and I never saw it again.
Cut to the morning of the 11th of July 2016.
As I woke up and started my day, I found a curious email in my inbox, with “Eggs(RA)”, in the subject line. I was about to delete it thinking it was just another spam email, when instead of “delete”, I pressed “open”, to find an email from a lady I didn’t know, from the UK.
Apologizing in advance, in case she had emailed he wrong Charlotte Greenwood, she explained her story about having a painting of some eggs, that she had acquired from the Richmond Hill Gallery in the early 1990s.
The gallery stood on the corner of a road, and there were a few shops there. She said, ” if I remember: an off licence (where I would bump into David Attenborough, who lived round the corner), a dress shop and a shop that sold bits of painted furniture, etc. I was living in one of the small ‘Alberts’ cottage at the time”.
My heart jumped and a big smile came over my face. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This story, from this mysterious lady, brought memories of my childhood, flooding back.
I was enthralled that the little painting had been in her family for almost 30 years, and now was “up north” in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
I immediately replied, saying that yes she had found the right person, and that it was me who had painted the little still life of the eggs. I was thrilled to know that one of the earliest artworks I had ever painted, had survived several house moves and was still being enjoyed to this day. I sent her a link to my current website and some stories of my more recent art creations, and we exchanged a few more emails.
Out of respect for the lady in question, I have changed her name to Kathy, to tell this story.
Kathy was sad that I had lost the painting for all these years, and asked if I wanted the painting back. She even offered to pay for its delivery from the UK to Canada.
I thought it over, and I was torn. Kathy had bought the painting and it was part of her family, but at the same time I remembered how fond my parents had been of that painting (and its partner a still life of some bananas), and how they were so sad when it was lost. Even today they still have two framed laser prints of the paintings, in their kitchen.
After a bit of thought over this, we both agreed that Kathy would send the painting to my parents in the south of France.
” Do they live near Cannes? Just a shot in the dark. I have a friend who flies out to her house every month”.
“Well, as it happens they do”, I replied.
I couldn’t believe how the situation was unfolding at this point. I was excited to know that my parents, whom I haven’t seen in person for three years, would have this beautiful surprise and a gift of a painting they love and hadn’t seen for nearly 30 years.
To mark my appreciation of Kathy’s kindness, I offered to paint her a new still life, of something that was meaningful to her.
She wrote me a story of the farmhouse she was born in, on the moors of Northumberland, in northern England. The first girl to be born there in hundreds of years. So to mark the occasion, the shepherds put white heather on the hearth, in the farmhouse, as a mark of good luck. White heather is really rare, and they say in local folklore, it only grows where the fairies play. She told me of her “secret place” where she goes to sit on a rock which is surrounded by white heather and went on to describe,
“The Rock has cup and ring markings on it, carved by people who lived and farmed on the hill- thousands of years ago, I have been told”. “And”, she said, “the rock is the shape of an egg, which brings us back to the start of our journey”.
I thought, “this is perfect, I can use this as the base of my new still life”. So, I asked Kathy to send
me a bunch of white heather and take a photo of the rock with the markings on it, and send that with the heather. I will include them in the still life that I’m going to paint for her. And so our story continues to evolve.
I was moved by this random contact and how it has grown into a bigger story. It made me think of my portrait project YOU, and I thought this story and a portrait of Kathy, would fit perfectly into that project, since YOU is all about the stories that each of us have to share, and how we are all connected. I took a chance and asked Kathy if she would accept to become one of the portraits in my book of 100 faces.
I sent her the preface of the book, with some of the images of my finished portraits, so she could get an idea of what the project is about. She was blown away by my invitation, and she accepted.
What I think is so wonderful about this story is that, it brings to light how art can have such a profound impact on where our lives take us. It made me think of all the things I have created over my lifetime so far, and the experiences that those things brought forth as a result. And how they have interacted with other people.
In this way art is important. It invokes conversation amongst people, it provokes emotions, curiosity, memories, moments of quiet contemplation, and in this case it has created new, real life experiences and friendships between people who didn’t know each other before.
This is how powerful art can be, even a little still life of some eggs!
So next time you experience an original work of art, remember, there is a whole story that led up to its existence. And even though art doesn’t talk in the same way a human being does, it can have a compelling presence.Read more →