Earlier this year I was at the National Portrait Gallery looking at Claude Cahun’s tiny photographs of herself impersonating things, and the gigantic photographs of Gillian Wearing disguised as other people, when a bell rang in my head.
For the past 31 years, Peter Chrisp and I have dressed up, posed against a home-made set, clicked the shutter and sent the resulting photo as a Christmas card to friends and family.
I imagined a long line of our cards, neatly framed and wittily captioned, running along the NPG gallery wall. Yes, I said to myself, what we do is art, it just took me until now to realize it.
When your day job doesn’t involve regularly getting out paints and brushes or going to a studio, it’s all too easy to forget that you once studied art and drama and had creative ambitions. But now, seeing what Cahun, Wearing and Sherman are up to, I’ve seen the light. Better late than never!
Not that we’re without form. Peter and I have exhibited in Artists Open Houses before. Years ago we built scenic dioramas that sat on top of the bath-tub at 6 Clifton Street. We made Ancient Rome and The Wild West, complete with papier-mache Colosseum and brothel, with Jamboree bags for sale containing authentic relics.
This time, for Christmas, in the upstairs nook at Stanley Road Store, I’m showing a range of our cards. We know that people have collected the lot over 3 decades, but this won’t be a complete collection, just some of our favourites. Mine include the French Nouvelle Vague film Ploup de Souffle, Sylvie and Lional celebrating Hanukkah with an argument and The House of The Chrysanthemums. Peter loves ardent spiritualist Walter Dumpling-Ball, Punch and Judy and Ballooning over the South Downs.
What you’ll see is our imagination and astonishing acting, plus some skills in costume, painting and design. But, most poignantly, you’ll see a couple who began this in their early twenties and now approach their sixties. The exhibition is a portrait of a partnership, and one that will inevitably end one day, as much as anything else.
There will be a calendar for sale and the chance to turn yourself into something and take a photo, so you too can send a different you to friends and family this year. Who knows, you might never stop…
Sundays only at