Aspex Portsmouth

Week 15, These Foolish Things, 40 Stories

Les Buckingham, Director 1984-1999

Long-time technical assistant at the Aspex Gallery was photographer John McPherson. John’s mainly black and white images examined the darker side of life through his use of still life, everyday objects and surreal imagery. The image he decided to use for the invitation card of his solo show (Of Human Scale, 1990) was certainly indicative: the lonely piano-player in a dark corner, candles burning indicating time passing, a bluesy self-portrait complete with bowler hat, probably playing Billy Holiday’s These Foolish Things – ‘a tinkling piano in the next apartment’. To make a point about the fragility of existence perhaps, the piano was made of cardboard. 

The gallery printed 1000 cards and they were duly sent out. This is one role of the gallery, how it helps promote the artist. In legal terms the image always remains the copyright of the artist. But the gallery has invested in its success and does not want this work or image to be abused. During the show I happened to be in Winchester and walking past a stationary shop noticed the image in the window, framed and for sale at £75. Stunned and annoyed I took a minute to gather myself, went into the shop and said I admired the picture, bought it and paid, being careful to take the receipt. Back at the gallery I wrote to lawyers who had helped us previously.  The next time I was in Winchester I noticed that the shop was not selling any images stolen from artists and the window was empty. RIP John.