Pictured Top: Portrait of Prince Philip (left) by Valerie Wiffen, right
Pictured Bottom: Ghanaian artist Edward Ofosu, inspired by Hockney
Published: 13 December, 2012
by JOHN GULLIVER
THEY are a strange lot at the Hampstead School of Art.
Unlike other art schools where students get plugged into degree or diploma courses, most students at Hampstead follow “life-enriching” courses, often subsidised to encourage people to follow their dream – many of them in middle age before they pick up a brush in the classroom for the first time.
I felt at home immediately at a fund-raising jazz evening at King’s College in Hampstead on Friday where the hall was full of tables with students and friends busy chatting and eating supper, all against the strains of a very good band, and with the walls covered with oils, water colours and pastels submitted for sale by students.
To add excitement to the evening, several canvases of well-known artists – Valerie Wiffen, Mary Treherne and Tim Benson, shortlisted for the prestigious BP Portrait awards – were auctioned.
Wiffen, commissioned by Prince Philip and the businessman Sir Sigmund Sternberg, is in demand as a portrait painter. At the moment she is working on a portrait of Lady Hazel Sternberg.
For Prince Philip she had to have a special security pass for the Palace, and completed his portrait in four one-hour sittings. “He was very professional, and sat beautifully,” she told me. Prince Philip himself paints in oils, she said.
The evening also revealed another success story – the rise of Edward Ofosu, a Ghanaian, who joined the school last summer as a grant-aided student, and is now poised to take his own class in “digital painting”.
Inspired by the Hockney exhibition, Ofosu – recognised as a new talent – started using tablets for his digital works, and next year will teach the new art form.
Meanwhile, the principal, Isobel Langtry, once worried about what appeared to be a threat posed by the redevelopment of the school’s site in Kidderpore Avenue, is now more hopeful that it will be able to pull through. Apparently, the builders, Barratts, have put in a modified and more acceptable plan, that could win support – even from opponents from the Redington and Frognal Residents’ Association.