The eclectic life of Paddy Lovely
Paddy Lovely: LIFE, runs from 6 – 29 October, 2023, The Lovely Gallery.
Situated at 140 Sydenham Road, the Lovely Gallery is celebrating the 85th Birthday of Patrick ‘Paddy’ Lovely through an exhibition of his work, ‘The Brixton Paintings, Animals, People and Sketch Books’. The gallery, owned Patrick’s daughter, Anna-Maria Lovely, who opened it in 2014. Her daughter Bonnie is also an artist, and all three generations studied at Camberwell School of Arts.
On a highstreet full of chicken tandooris and laundrettes, you’ll find a bright white oasis in The Lovely Gallery. The room is unassuming, made up of wooden planks, an antique table and a few mismatched chairs. On it, sunflowers sit in a vase above a littering of different-sized sketchbooks. And just beyond, a long winding garden that fills the space with light. There, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the gallery’s guard: Anna’s inky black cat.
London and France are key locations in Paddy’s work, and I am immediately drawn to his paintings of Brixton. These are loud images, bold, packed full of motion. They depict an array of bars filled with dancers, smokers and women, each more crowded than the next. Paddy explains how much Brixton has changed throughout the years, from the Windrush generation through to now. He moves through the space making haphazard noises before ushering me on to the painting of a goat – a pet that he kept in his garden in South London. From his work to his character, Paddy is a force of life, but I smell his lament for the past.
His paintings of France are quite different – especially the one of a street-side café. Most immediately, because it is in black and white, but also because of its slower pace. This is a sketch of a sleepy provincial village that the Lovely family returns to year after year, and Paddy has managed to insert his daughter, his friend and himself into the scene. Anna points at an old man outside the ‘Salle De Jeux’ and explains how he used to sit at the bar all day writing letters before tottering down the street to post them to himself. Again, I feel the family’s nostalgia towards this painting, to the familiarity of the place and their fondness of its people.
Other drawings are darker. I am shown the rather violent image of a baboon crying out in pain, as well as the sketch of a petrified girl to which Paddy cryptically drifts off: ‘…Look…Prophesy…the wars, prophecies’. His sketchbooks are similarly sombre as whole pages are smudged and cast into scribble. Even he is taken back by the force of his own hand: ‘Because it is so long ago, some of them, it’s like looking through a diary’.
The artist makes repeated reference to the use of mobile phones, and four women by the exit embody his preoccupation, each of them engrossed in their own digital world. Is this painting another criticism of modernity? From its charcoal smeared bodies to its ominous red glow, it would seem so.
Yet the exhibition is not so much a critique of the present as it is a homage to the past. Through a series of snapshots, we witness specific moments in Paddy’s life, from nights in old drinking dens to days spent lounging on the beach. But this is a collective memory – it is not exclusive to the artist. ‘LIFE’ at The Lovely Gallery, in its depictions of drinking, dancing and local communities, is an ode to public life. Within an increasingly isolated society, I understand now, the cause to reminisce.
Siena Swire was born and raised in Devon. She is a recent graduate of Trinity College Dublin where she studied English for four years. Her main interests are poetry and creative writing.
To discover more content exclusive to our print and digital editions, subscribe here to receive a copy of The London Magazine to your door every two months, while also enjoying full access to our extensive digital archive of essays, literary journalism, fiction and poetry.