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Look at artist’s work – but you can’t buy!

Why Daniel Fooks, whose work is on show at Conway Hall, doesn’t want to sell his paintings under any circumstances

08 March, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Daniel Fooks with his mother Jean, and Jeremy Corbyn and his wife Laura Alvarez

I HAVE met all kinds of artists, but Daniel Fooks is different from all of them. He is an artist – and a very fine artist at that – who doesn’t want to sell his paintings under any circumstances.

In fact, fly the possibility, and his Scottish drawl tightens. “No, no. I have lots of paintings, and they are not for sale. That is the only way I make sense of my day!”

He seemed a throw-back to William Morris of the 19th century, not simply art for art’s sake but art for the people.

He has completed portraits of celebrities like Peter Capaldi, Olivia Colman and Billy Bragg, based on photographs he had taken of them. But sell them? Never. “I’ve got them at home – selling a painting never enters my head.”

He set out his philosophy of life on Tuesday evening over the phone after I had spotted his exhibition by pure chance a few days earlier as I left the memorial gathering for the lawyer Michael Seifert at the Conway Hall in Holborn.

It was Daniel Fooks’ opening night – complete with soft drinks and wine – in a smaller hall where 40 exquisitely drawn pencil drawings of the last days, even moments, of his father Chris who died in 2016 from cancer, interspersed with powerful oil canvases.

One of Daniel’s drawings of his dying father

The exhibition, titled “The Dying Breath of my Father” isn’t for the faint-hearted; the gaunt, haunting images of his father follow you around.

Don’t think they were crafted as Daniel Fooks stood by his father’s bedside. Daniel took photographs of his father – and then worked on the portraits. It was all part of a pact with a man he clearly loved – a man of the theatre who had run an alternative circus for years near Edinburgh, partnered by his wife, Jean, and, occasionally, using his son Daniel as part of the act.

Daniel had studied at the Edinburgh School of Art and is now head of art at Godalming College in Surrey, much praised by Ofsted, with more than 700 A-level pupils under him.

His need to paint the last days of his father was something he felt he had to do, however strange it may seem. It was his father’s “last gift” to him allowing him to “make sense of his day”.

With someone of his views, it was all part of a piece to discover his hero is Jeremy Corbyn so when he heard he was in the next hall on Thursday he invited him to see his exhibition.

“He spent 20 minutes with me and my mother, and it may be possible for me to do his portrait.”

Drawing the Last Breath: Portraits of my Father by Daniel Fooks is at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, WC1, until March 31, https://conwayhall.org.uk

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