In my debut novel I Am a Muse, the former artist's muse Alda Thunberg lives - or rather survives - in an old house too big for her surrounded by the remnants of her life before her husband's death. Herself an artist, Alda cannot create anymore. At 70, she is the shadow of her former self.
For more than 40 years, Alda was married to the painter and sculptor Alastair Maynard and together, they had acquired a certain enviable status, that of the golden couple of contemporary art. Now Maynard's art seems to be relegated to a few appearances into catalogues and not too much else.
A mysterious American publishing magnate is going to change everything: he hires a New York gallery manager and instructs her to put on a major exhibition of Maynard's art in New York; he also commissions a biography of the author to be published at the same time as the exhibition opens.
This is when the story of I Am a Muse starts...
I have a strange habit of reading magazines as I spend time on my exercise bike - believe you me, in 30 minutes, you've got time to read quite a few articles.
I read pretty much anything, usually magazines found in the Sunday papers and free commercial ones my boyfriend picks up on his commute from London. It's good to keep your fingers on the pulse of mainstream culture, especially if, like us, you write and sell books and create artworks to sell at markets and fairs. It's essential to keep an eye on trends and to know what people have been ordered to like on a particular week. Since we've started doing markets and such, we have noticed that people like the familiar, get easily unsettled by the unknown and need to get gently nudged into trying out different things they like but are not sure they should be liking. Hey, it's not on TV...
To us - a debut writer and independent publisher and an artist, designer and stallholder(s), that kind of attitude - and the fact that people get bombarded with cultural references that only appear in the media because someone has paid for it to get there - represents a huge challenge.
Anyway... All this waffling to say that while I was leafing through the pages of a free woman's magazine, I found a page about a new art gallery in London called The Piper Gallery. Located in Fitzrovia, not a million miles from Tottenham Court Road station, it was opened in June 2012. But there is a twist to the story: the gallery's 28 year-old owner, Megan Piper, showcases "the work of contemporary artists whose careers have spanned forty years or more. The gallery aims to present these artists to a new generation and to demonstrate both the strength of their lifelong commitment to their practice and the continuing dynamism of their recent production."
Wow! Just like the story in my book, in which the career of a deceased artist (Ok, the artists at The Piper Gallery are thankfully alive and still practising!) gets resurrected and made relevant again! Reading the article and browsing the website genuinely made me smile. Strangely enough, I immediately started thinking about my characters and the life I have imagined for them...
You can read the article on Megan Piper HERE.
I have never worked in the art business or in a gallery and I am not an artist myself (although everyone thought I would be when I was younger. WORDS and BOOKS won the battle.)
I do not know a lot about this world, and everything in the book has been inspired by observations, readings, visits to gallery and museums, music, films, a love of and obsession with art, imagination and creativity.
I will be paying a visit to the gallery this Friday and I will have with me a copy of I Am a Muse and a print out of the press release. I'd love the gallery owner to read the book.
If I get chucked out, at least I would have tried!
The Piper Gallery is at 18 Newman Street, London, W1T 1PE
THE PIPER GALLERY WEBSITE
I think therefore I write.
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