Thursday, 26 June 2014


open until June 28

Jiri Keller places his own reflection in the top right hand corner of this unconventional setting. I use the Bakerloo line most days, and I see this work not only as a beautifully executed group painting but also as a shrewd and accurate  commentary on changing social patterns.  He remarks 'I was motivated to paint when I caught sight of this charming scene in front of me on a tube train. The carriage light giving a good definition of light and shade, and the relaxed behaviour of the family, quite unusual in these surroundings, seemed interesting and worthy of capturing on canvas'.

In this painting his complex task is to convey a moment of warmth and co-operation between three passengers, linked by touch. He captures beautifully the studied concentration of the girl on the right and the mystery of the upward glance of the central figure: is she holding her head high to accommodate what's happening to her hair or is she simply lost in thought and hardly aware of what's going on behind her? And look at the figure on the left. Is that boredom or humour or simple sleepiness?

But there's more. Once upon a time on public transport you did not put your feet on the upholstery but sat demurely the right way up. And kept more or less still. In the past few years the tube has been transformed. It's become a place where most things can happen. Wafts of spicy food creep along the carriage; small children sit in rows with aprons on and are fed meals. It is mesmerising to watch how mascara and blusher and lipstick are applied with mathematical precision and how hair is brushed and sprayed and plaited; nail varnish applied (with its lasting  pungent chemical  smell). And occasionally some young people use the overhead hand rail to perform acrobatic tricks.

Jiri Keller studied art in Brno, Czechoslovakia, from 1956-1960, immigrating to England in 1969, and has lived in London ever since. He is a member of the British Thematic Association , the UK's national association for theme-based philately and postcards. His collection of art on stamps has grown into a reference library.

The Hesketh Hubbard is London's largest life-drawing society. It has been holding weekly drawing classes since 1930, allowing professional and amateur artists to work in untutored sessions in a variety of styles and media. 110 of their works are on temporary display at The Mall Gallery, a champion of figurative art by living artists.

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