Jennie and I have been friends since we were eleven year olds in navy blue gymslips, white blouses and bottle-green ties. Like most friends, we fell out, made up, drifted apart…but we always stayed in touch the old-fashioned way, writing to each other from time to time.
The only painting Jennie’d done since leaving school was the ‘decorating the kitchen’ sort, so I was surprised when she wrote to tell me, several years ago now, that she’d joined an art class. Since then, she’s had several exhibitions and sold many of her paintings. Her subject matter is often close to home – farming scenes and the stunning countryside round her Wiltshire house – although she enjoys painting whatever takes her fancy. She’s having fun being creative, whether she sells her work or not.
One of her paintings is currently on display at Salisbury District Hospital, as part of this year’s ArtCare open exhibition, so she invited me along to look at it on Monday. Over 100 paintings and photographs, in a range of media, are hung along the main corridors, produced by both amateur and professional artists.
The mix of styles, the variety of approaches, the choice of subject matter – the exhibition is a splendid example of how wide-ranging our tastes can be. I’d defy anyone to look at these paintings and not find a single one they liked – from the collage-like acrylics of the winning entry, Lindsay Keir’s Winter landscape, to the comical antics of Annaliese Stoney’s The Old Mill. There was something for everyone.
And if that’s true of art, then isn’t it also true of books and writing? If you belong to a book group, you’ll know that the liveliest discussions arise when the group is divided over a particular book. How rarely do we all like the same book, or derive the same satisfaction from it? How often do we passionately defend (or pointedly attack!) a novel that has even had the critics in disagreement?
What a dull world this would be, if we all liked the same things! As S R Ranganathan declared, in his Five Laws of Library Science: Every reader, his (or her) book. And every book, its reader.
Like I said, something for everyone.