My child’s art has pride of place on our walls – my prized pictures are behind the sofa

Unhung paintings have just become more clutter around the house

‘Our younger son went through a Jackson Pollack phase and a small but punchy abstract expressionist daub of his is in full, public view.’

‘Our younger son went through a Jackson Pollack phase and a small but punchy abstract expressionist daub of his is in full, public view.’

 

For years I’ve watched my personal space slowly shrink in inverse proportion to my sons’ growth and I’ve finally been supplanted from my last little nook.

When we bought our cottage my wife suggested a particular room should be my “study”. This was cunning because, as it gradually dawned on me, it tacitly nominated the rest of the house as hers.

However, I happily loitered there, until the boys arrived – after which it continued as my study in name only. Whenever overnight guests visited it became the spare bedroom and for festive dinners it served as a dining room. The rest of the time regular, creeping encroachments made it a general storage depot and my desk became the dumping ground for any stray household detritus. But the room remained notionally mine.

Sustained by the sight of my accumulated posters, prints and portraits adorning the walls, I hung on to an ever-contracting corner. However, the older boy is now a teenager. He shaves once a week and “needs his space.” He’s moved in and I have to find somewhere else to hang my pictures. They’ve gone to the back of a long queue as we have many more lying around waiting to be hung. Some are hidden behind the sofa and there are a few at the foot of our bed. Leaning against the chair where I drape my jeans, they give the room a vaguely Bohemian ambience and evoke an Impressionist’s studio in Montmartre.

Leaning against the chair where I drape my jeans, they give the room a vaguely Bohemian ambience

The casually piled frames hint at riches waiting to be experienced: an artistic cache, a deposit of creativity promising future dividends of visual delight. Or at least they used to – with time they have faded into invisibility and inevitably became pointless clutter I was no longer aware of ... until I’d stub my toe and be reminded of them.

A collection of carelessly stacked half-forgotten canvases is a romantic, cliched metaphor for the quintessential artistic predicament: imaginative abundance co-existing with material drought. It suggests a wealth of culture but actually signifies a poverty of space ....and ours is increasingly confined. Following customary curatorial practise, the early artistic efforts of the boys adorn fridge and cupboard doors in the gallery kitchen.

Elsewhere, the low eaves in the cottage severely limit the vertical surfaces required for displaying paintings with sufficient elegance.

However, there’s a Victorian painting of Oscar Wilde viewing the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. He’s dressed in untypically sombre black, as are most of the luminaries surrounding him, but all are outshone by the floor to ceiling art.

Every available inch is covered with of exotic landscapes and costumed portraits in a gaudy riot of paint. I like this fabulously vulgar approach but my more discerning wife adheres to a tyranny of good taste and I must submit.

I ... haven’t fully grasped the criteria for deciding what makes the cut to hang in glory in the sitting room

I’ve learned to appreciate her keen eye for scale and balance along with her subtle sense of colour but haven’t fully grasped the criteria for deciding what makes the cut to hang in glory in the sitting room. Clearly an original work beats a reproduction – however finely printed or framed: although exceptions sometimes prove this rule.

She once gave prominence to an exhibition poster signed by the artist. This trumped a signed poster for a play I was actually in. I’m still not sure why.

I also accept that mere sentimental attachment is an inadequate qualification but similarly, this principle has been equally selectively applied. Our younger son went through a Jackson Pollack phase and a small but punchy abstract expressionist daub of his is in full, public view. I love the boy dearly.

My heart burst with pride when he first went to the bathroom unaided but objectively speaking – and I say this secure in the knowledge he will never read this – the painting is clearly crap. Yet there it hangs, while my limited edition Guggenheim Museum poster of a lesser known Picasso – a fond memento of an exciting gig in Manhattan – is banished to obscurity.

If the issue of comparative taste is forced to a discussion, regrettable statements might be made

Furthermore: I have family connections with Africa but my Zulu and Ndebele curios languish in hidden niches whilst my wife’s Asian carvings, collected by her grandfather, perch prominently.

I dare not ask why. If the issue of comparative taste is forced to a discussion, regrettable statements might be made. Some things may be better left unsaid. What seems clear though is that in evaluating art, sentimental fondness can be a valid consideration, as long as it’s mutual.

My wife is aware of my chagrin at being evicted. I’ve grumbled about it loudly enough. So, largely because she is an intelligent, magnanimous woman – and partly because she fears I might exhibit my displaced pictures in the sitting room – she’s had a brilliant idea.

We should earmark some money, browse in a gallery or two then buy an affordable painting we both like and hang it together. It would keep me quiet for some time.

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