Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Found in Hampshire

An email arrived out of the blue the other day from somebody at the Public Catalogue Foundation asking if I was the artist called James Hobbs who had painted the work they had attached as a jpeg (above). The disappointment at finding out I wasn't the James Hobbs they were looking for would only have been compounded by finding out there was another artist called James Hobbs, so it was a relief to find out that the painting was mine.

It was an odd sensation to see the painting again, because I hadn't seen it in nearly 23 years, since my degree show when I had sold it. I'd sold a few works at the show (although not as many as Ms S, and only on a small scale compared to what was going on at the Freeze show that was being arranged by Damien Hirst at Surrey Docks at about the same time).

The email went on to tell me that my painting was in the art collection of Hampshire County Council, and the Public Catalogue Foundation charity are in the process of photographing and recording all the paintings in public collections in the UK. It's estimated there are about 200,000 such works in buildings including council offices, hospitals and fire stations, the vast majority away from the public eye. Colour catalogues are being produced but, inevitably and essentially, they are going to be shown online too. My painting, along with all the others, will end up in time in a catalogue and on the BBC's Your Paintings website.

Four years ago I had a similar email from the Berardo Collection in Lisbon asking if four works in its collection were by me. I like the idea that you make these works and then they go off and have a life of their own. It's like bringing up children and then seeing them leave home. (I hope ours don't disappear without trace for 23 years, though.)

The most bizarre things about the past couple of decades the Hampshire painting has spent is that it has acquired a new title — An Island Near the Shore is definitely not the title I've given any painting, although my records from that time are not all they might be and the hunt goes on in the attic for its true title — and that it was apparently attributed for a while to an artist called A Smitt. How did that come about? Who is A Smitt? That's something my hunt in the attic will not sort out.

1 comment:

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