Back in London, I ventured to the Chris Beetles gallery.
The current exhibition was Michael Forman. His extraordinary career was on show in a floor to ceiling display.
It could all be taken in by standing in the middle of the gallery and spinning around on your heel, and then spinning around again. Which of course I did a number of times. It was quite a jaw dropping show, as I do love his work. Sadly, I missed the opening night which Michael Morpugo opened. I would have loved to meet with him after seeing a substantial portion of his work at Seven Stories, though most likely it would have been a short chat at best, as I have since gathered the gallery was packed. They always seems to draw a hefty crowd.
I was fortunate to get a sneak preview of the show as a perk of meeting with Chris (Beetles). I now say this with an air of casualness, but my first meeting with him was very different indeed.
A couple of years ago I was in London and decided to simply drop in to his St James gallery, casually of course, and by coincidence with my folio in hand.
Chris Beetles is a private gallery. A bell on the door beckons staff up a spiral staircase from the gallery’s engine room below, in order to usher one in. On that day I had tentatively approached the large glass entrance and was loitering in the hope the door would open, when by some minor miracle it did. A woman with a purposeful walk strode past me and I was carried inside, spinning behind her like a paper boat in an eddy. A split second later I spotted an Arthur Rackham illustration gently propped among many other treasures.
I warn that you can quickly lose all sense of time in this gallery. While I went about open mouthed, taking in the sheer number of world class works on the walls, I unexpectedly found myself face to face with Mr Beetles.
Uninvited, underprepared and quite frankly undone, I pulled myself together and showed Chris the picture book drawings that I was working on at the time. He viewed them judiciously, and asked a few questions about the work. Happily this was how the originals from my picture book Hasel and Rose came to be exhibited at the gallery.
I returned to London for the opening night of that show and remember standing at the lights waiting to cross St James Street on my way to the gallery. Christmas lights glimmered in the sharpish evening air…. I was genuinely elated to be there, a happy stupor. It took a double-decker bus stopping in the way to break my concentration. But then I noticed the bus driver was looking at me questioningly with half a smile on his face…..it seemed I had been beaming like an idiot. I smiled back, a little sheepishly, he laughed and drove off.
Caroline Magerl is an award-winning and internationally distinguished illustrator, cartoonist and painter, who is now recognised as a unique and arresting presence. Her work spans from dark, enigmatic oil paintings, through incisive cartoons, to lively children’s book illustrations. It has been exhibited in a variety of galleries and art fairs and celebrated in numerous publications.
Chris Beetles Gallery, London UK