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  • Tony Davidson

Expect the Unexpected


Another day in the life of a gallery and the ancient blacksmith-made latch makes a loud ‘thunk’ as it clicks upwards. The old church door is heavy, and I have a broken little finger to prove it. Somehow, unexpectedly, it got caught as the door swung open. That was twenty-years ago and it is now a twig of twisted bone. Since that painful surprise I have opened this door, walked into the congregation of paintings and sculpture, and expected… nothing. I have hoped, prayed and wished for the right person to appear through this door and make a purchase. That vital ‘sold’ that keeps the gallery alive, but I never expected it, because in the world of art everything is unique.

I pass a Lotte Glob sculpture, a bird-like creature, which sits on a black plinth. The drips and glazed colours which appear during the firing are a surprise, even to Lotte. In her studio last week, a big lump of clay sat on her turntable ready to work. ‘So, what’s this going to be Lotte,’ I asked. ‘I have no idea, Tony. None. It’ll just happen. That’s where the best things come from.’ It is the surprises that bring Lotte Glob joy, and the predictable that take it away again; the line of slow-moving fast cars on the North Coast 500 and the increasingly sore shoulder. Life becomes more dull when you know where it’s going.

Further into the gallery is a painting by Charles MacQueen. It is an abstract composition of light, colour and arched openings. There are very few of them left and I hoped for more, but Charles tells me that he has an artistic block.

‘I don’t know where I’m heading. I need to get to a point where I see a direction again, a way to move forward,’ he tells me.

‘Isn’t that a problem with all artists?’

‘No! A lot of people know exactly where they’re going. There’s a bit of a formula and it’s easier for them. But, I’m eighty, and I’m still looking for a way ahead. Maybe when the sun goes.’ A few other artists are having the same problem. They stare at the canvas, paint and wait for a path to open, as it eventually will. Often it is playful gut instinct rather than thought that cuts through. The gallery needs to be patient until this path is found, and the paintings can be finished.

As I walk towards the desk, my iPhone rings. There are billions of phones just like mine. Repeatable production and consumption are the mantras of industrialism, but not in art or nature. Everything here is unique: one artist, one object and even one bespoke frame around it. Hopefully, there will be one moment in the gallery when it sells to an unrepeatable person. You can’t put it in the calendar; the miracles, the path ahead, but your body feels that they are there even when your head can’t see it. Today begins. I expect the unexpected again. That is my trade because I know the unexpected always comes.



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