I know Jonny Kemp through the weekly Life Drawing class at Upper Norwood Library, and was intrigued to hear he had an exhibition of his portrait work at Stanley Halls, South Norwood at the end of July/beginning of August. Although Jonny’s life drawings had given some indication of his portraiture abilities, I didn’t quite anticipate the scope, skill and professionalism of the South Drawood exhibition.
The exhibition contained nearly 40 pen & ink portraits of South Norwood business owners, cafe proprietors and community organisers, with interviews in an accompanying text provided by Jonny’s partner, Lizzie Walters. The project took them nearly a year, working in their spare time.
The end result was a sensitive and affectionate portrayal of a community: the individual lives who often go unnoticed in the maelstrom of everyday life and are usually overlooked by the mainstream media. I came away feeling moved by the exhibition in a way that has rarely affected me when visiting the larger London galleries.
Sadly the exhibition was only on for a couple of weekends, but Jonny’s website has some photographs of the opening night. There’s also a link to an excellent free e-book containing all the drawings, the interviews and the background to the project.
Mugs, T-shirts and tote bags are still available!