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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 29 November 2007

Death Bed, which features curator Annie Hill-Smith
Welcoming home the painter Prodigal Son

I DON’T recall ever beginning a story like this before, but I feel I am being pretty accurate when I sum up a new exhibition opening tonight (Thursday) in Camden as the Return of the Prodigal Son!
Who is the Prodigal Son? One Robert Lenkiewicz, who grew up in West Hampstead, became an artist but turned his back on the London art scene and lived in Plymouth, gathering a reputation as perhaps one of Britain’s finest craftsmen – our own Rembrandt!
He died five years ago and is now recognised as a world class painter whose works can sell for more than £250,000.
But the first exhibition of his brilliant art in Camden opens at the Novas gallery in Parkway. He’s come home, as it were – and what could be better that I should find one of his women friends, Annie Hill-Smith, busy on Tuesday hanging the paintings of a man she is clearly in love with.
She didn’t use the word “love”. That’s my description. She used the term “relationship” instead but I could tell by the look in her eyes what she meant.
We were both looking at the first large painting near the entrance – it shows a group of women and children around a man on his deathbed.
The subject was a self-portrait of Lenk­iewicz – looking down on him are the women in his life.
He had long-term relationship with many women, and fathered not a few children.
The work features Annie – and her three children by Lenkie­wicz. “For him the process of falling in love was the most common addiction,” she told me. “He used to say the lover is the greatest addict of all.”
Lenkiewicz has had several exhibitions in his time. But he died penniless owing the taxman more than £2 million.
Auctions of his work in the past three years have raised at least £1.5 million. But none of the pictures at Novas are for sale. It’s a labour of love by Annie.
His next shows will be at the Ben Uri gallery in St John’s Wood early next year, and a prestigious West End gallery in 2009.
Lenkiewicz is a really original artist – and readers should not miss this show, which runs until late January.
It is titled At The Edge – and its subjects are those who are invisible in society: drunks, homeless, handicapped.
It’s not a morbid show though. It’s busting with life and vibrancy, and you will leave feeling taller!
* At The Edge by Robert Lenkiewicz, is at Novas Gallery, Parkway, until January 25. Admission free.
Tel: 020 7267 5641

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