In an artworld seemingly swamped in commercial interests, it is refreshing to occasionally discover a genuine desire to help others, such as is the case with Simon Tarrant’s latest exhibition. He has teamed up with the London Canal Museum and queen of harps Catrin Finch to stage an exhibition and concert to raise funds for WaterAid.
Aside from being a brilliant painter, Simon is a seasoned arts promoter and events organiser, supplemented by writing his blog, Simon says, for ArtLyst. He has also had notable success as a curator, gallery director and general PR man about town. He started painting at the age of 30, having had a successful career elsewhere, without any formal training but with a keen eye for colour, form and composition. His practice covers three distinct, but not unrelated, fields that traverse the cannon of painting: luscious landscapes, tender portraits, and Richterian abstractions on glass. For this exhibition, Simon presents around twenty-five works which relate to water, tying together the historic location of the London Canal Museum, a former warehouse for Norwegian ice, and the work of WaterAid.
Simon’s work as an artist and promoter has the rare virtue of having a charitable angle: he is director of Winter Pride, which aims to raise positive awareness of LGBT communities through art and creativity, has chaired the Save Cork Street campaign, and works closely with the Jack Petchy Foundation. It was on a recent trip to India, a place very close to Simon’s heart, that he saw first-hand the poor provision of clean water and decided to do something about it. Then, just recently, the Nepal earthquake struck, deepening this basic difficultly for many. Simon’s exhibition coincides with a concert by world renowned harpist, Catrin Finch, on 16th May, which, along with the auction of one of his paintings, will raise urgently needed funds for WaterAid’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal.
As we meet for lunch the day before he installs the exhibition, Simon cuts a dashing figure of calm and professionalism, explaining all this to me with passion and energy, conveying his conviction that the arts are a vehicle for genuine social change. He speaks like an artist in love with his craft and with a belief in the pleasures of aesthetics, but he also thinks like an activist who is driven to mobilise art into action for the betterment of humanity. Not only will Simon’s paintings and Catrin’s concert be unmissable events, but they will also do something that contemporary art should do more of: they will bring about tangible changes to the lives of those who do not have either the luxuries or necessities that we do.
Simon Tarrant exhibition, London Canal Museum, opens on 5th May and runs until 31st May
Catrin Finch concert takes place at the London Canal Museum on 16th May at 7pm