Henry Cockburn, Lilford Gallery, Folkestone (September 2017) – Now I won’t pretend to know a single thing about Henry Cockburn or his painting, I could Google him and just bluff it, truth is I’ve never heard of him. Just happened to be back in Folkestone exploring the Triennial properly and discovering a bit more of the art of the evolving town without the distraction of being an artist taking part in the Art Car Boot Fair
The Folkestone version of Lilford Gallery (they also have a base in Canterbury) occupies a prominent position at the top of the hill at the head of the Creative Quarter of the town, as much a commercial shop dealing in the (dare we say) more obvious end of the modern Urban contemporary Street/Pop art market as a gallery, a reasonably big former shop packed with the usual super slick gallery friendly version of street art or urban art or whatever you want to call it, big shop windows full of Pure Evil imagery, the obligatory sets of Sara Pope lips, a white-framed Carne Griffiths or two, you know the score, if you like it then here it is, a shop type gallery place packed with original art is never a bad thing. Downstairs, almost hidden in the basement (we might have missed it if it hadn’t helpfully been pointed out) there’s an excellent solo show and a more gallery-like space, a collection of rather exciting paintings from a name new to us, Henry Cockburn, fascinating paintings alive with more and more the more you look at them
Okay, let’s bluff it, here’s what the gallery have to say about the artist – Henry is an artist and the co-author of the best-seller Henry’s Demons, a Father and Son’s Journey Out of Madness which describes Henry’s experiences in mental hospital. He was born in London on 4th January 1982 and grew up in Canterbury though he also spent time in Moscow and Washington. While a student at King’s School, Canterbury he won the Pfizer Award for young artists in 1999 and later went to Wimbledon Art College and Brighton University. While at Brighton in 2002 he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 and spent eight years in mental hospitals. He continued to paint and in 2008 published an account of his experiences in The Independent newspaper. This article became the basis Henry’s Demons, written with his father Patrick Cockburn, which was published in the UK and Britain in 2011. Highly praised by reviewers in Britain and the US, the book was short-listed for the Costa prize and dramatised as a radio play on BBC4 . Henry left mental hospital in 2011 and currently lives in Canterbury, Kent. He completed a B.A. in Fine Art at the University for Creative Arts in Canterbury in 2016 –
Without knowing any of that, before reading the information and the little bit of wordery placed next to the paintings by the atists, the pieces pull the viewer in, before you know a single thing about who the painter may be there’s whole layers of depth and detail here, the paintings, the stylish nature of the actual pieces, the beautiful use of colour, the layers that start to peel back. You’re immediately drawn in, intrigued, you start to get a sense of something rather private and something rather revealing at the same time. Almost don’t want to put this down, there was something special there straight away, something very personal, private, disturbing, beautiful, alive, positive. Really don’t know much about the artist but there is something rather special here….
“That night, I had a conversation with the tree and it told me quite a few things. It told me I could rap, and I said am I like Basquiat, and the tree said, ‘a bit like Basquiat’.” (from an on-line interview with the artist)
You get the feeling that these painting really matter to the artist, these aren’t throwaway marks, this is something he has to do, the paintings aren’t just about him though, Henry is telling, observing, sharing, there’s so much in here, depth in those paintings, a little more than just the “pretty stuff” and the wall decoration upstairs, something rather special down in the Lilford basement, watch out for piantings of Henry Cockburn (sw)
click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show…