The Law Society’s Art Group has some 90 members – made up of artist as well as non-artist members – who joined to take part in gallery visits and other art activities which the group organises monthly throughout the year. Since its formation in 1960, the art group has held its annual exhibitions at the Law Society’s Hall.
This year sees the 60th annual exhibition which will open in the Law Society Reading Room on 14-17 January (9am – 5.30pm) and 20 January 2020 (9am to 2pm). The private view is on Friday 17 January 2020, 6pm to 8pm. David Greene, vice president of the Law Society, will join us in celebration.
Traditionally, the highlight of the evening is the exhibition judge’s announcement of the winners for the various prizes at 7pm. Richard Cork, the distinguished art critic and historian, will be judging the exhibition. Sylvester Amiel Lewin & Horne LLP, Edwin Coe LLP, Radcliffe Chambers and Laura Devine Immigration are amongst the prize sponsors this year.
The annual exhibitions are entirely self-administered and funded by members. It is the dedication and support of its members that sees the group still exhibiting today. Such achievement is a testament to the fact that it is possible for working lawyers to enjoy art as something to be created and in which to participate – not just as outsiders. I believe that whether those who engage in art in this way become artists or not is unimportant; understanding develops through experience which will enrich our lives, no matter what we choose to do. As a matter of fact some of the most wonderful art came from people that never left their day jobs. L S Lowry, the modernist painter, worked full-time as a rent collector and painted in the evening. He famously said ’I am a Sunday painter who paints every day of the week’.
Most of the group’s artist-lawyer members do art in their free-time and some engage in art full time after retirement from legal practice. In my case, I started to draw after I was qualified as a litigation solicitor by attending evening life drawing sessions at the appropriately named Working Men’s College (which I continue to do to this day with no interruption). For many years, I went from work in Lincoln’s Inn to WMC (Mornington Crescent) and Morley College (Lambeth) and cycled home in north London at 9.30pm feeling the day had been worthwhile. Art makes one feel real and being able to use art as an expression is very fulfilling.
To celebrate the group’s 60th show, I have invited some of our lawyer members to relate their personal experience of art and what art-making has meant to them below.
I welcome everyone to come to the private view to see the group’s good work.
Pey Kan Su is chair of the Law Society Art Group
Trainee solicitor, Hodge, Jones & Allen
Pressure of work at school and university prevented me from engaging in art-making, but I was fond of drawing as a child. After I completed my LPC course and found work as a trainee solicitor, I felt I had time to do art again and I engaged in an art group in my free time to paint. My Supervisor referred me to the Law Society’s Art Group after a conversation about our mutual interest in painting. I am looking forward to exhibit for the first time in the Group’s 60th annual exhibition. I find art work has become a relaxing counterpart to the amount of reading I have to do as a lawyer.
Maria Memoli MBA
Solicitor, Law Society Council member, chair of the Law Society’s performance and scrutiny committee
Last summer I joined the Law Society’s Art Group. Encouraged by my fellow solicitors, I exhibited some of my work at the Law Society in January 2019. A first-ever for me! Imagine my surprise to find one of my pieces was sold on preview night. What a fantastic feeling that was. I was ecstatic. Like winning a case, fuelled with adrenaline. If only my art teacher could see me now; aged eleven she told me I drew like a five-year-old. That put me off art altogether until recently when I joined an adult art class for fun. I feel I’m not so bad now after all. I really enjoy the art group’s outings painting and drawing ‘en Plein air’, comparing our work and sharing our experiences with one another. Art is my solace, I make sure I fit that into my busy work schedule.
Retired partner, City firm
I retired from a law firm after 27 years and went to art school (Chelsea/Wimbledon) for 4 years, rubbing shoulders with the 19 and 20 year olds who constituted the bulk of other students. You can imagine something of a cultural shock for me from being a senior partner in a large international law firm to foraging as part of a set project for discarded piece of furniture in a skip to construct an art work from it and coming to grips with the realisation that the gobbledygook of the legal world has nothing compared to anything like the esoteric language of contemporary conceptual art. However, in that 4 years, I was doing what I wanted to do and living a dream – a dream of someone who wanted to paint but was frustrated by the fact that, as a busy lawyer, one had never had time to complete a full term of evening life painting classes. For my degree show I produced large paintings of all the brief cases I had used as a lawyer and of my legal wardrobe, ties, polished black shoes and suits. I became a full time painter and my morale was very much boosted when one of my paintings was stolen from a display outside Liverpool Street Station as it did not occur to me that I had a painting liked enough to steal it.
Retired partner, City law firm
‘I’m so tired. Its been such a long day. Its the concentration, the need to get it right all the time that wears you down. I can’t sleep without thinking about it. I dream of it!’. Ever heard comments like these from hard working friends and colleagues in law offices? But as a long since retired partner in a City law firm I was surprised to hear the same familiar grumbles made by my fellow students on a two-year portrait painting diploma course I began in September at a well known Chelsea art school. We have 5 more 12 week terms to go before ‘graduating’. We start at 10, finish at 4 (court hours I seem to recall) and our workplace is a large studio with two live models. We use big canvasses, 100 X 70 cm, and painting from life on this scale is itself a challenge for most of us. I compare the effort of trying to paint with my work in legal practice. There are many differences. As a lawyer one applies rules to achieve defined goals but it is often the unexpected, the unplanned and sometimes the accidental that makes a good painting. In the studio we tend to praise the work of others whereas in legal work one has to live with criticism. Time flies but it has a different quality since nobody thinks of recording it let alone charging for it. Our class has no dress code and the concept of ‘smart casual’ is mercifully unknown. But one feature survives. My ever-chiding internal critic followed me from law office to painting studio and continues to prod and scold at all my efforts, be they best or worst!
Retired chairman, City law firm
I am delighted and flattered that my etching, Running South past Orford Haven, is going to be used for posters for the LSAG’s 60th exhibition. In the1970’s I started drawing and painting for the first time in my life – I think I was 48 years old (I am 87 now). For a few months, I went to art evening classes at London City and Guilds.That year I joined the LSAG and entered an French landscape acrylic that I had made on holiday. To my absolute amazement I won best picture at the LSAG show. I was so thrilled that it changed my life so that painting and printing became and continue to be my favourite way of spending my time when not working. A huge thanks to the LSAG.
The Law Society Art Group’s annual exhibition is open 14-17 January 2020 (9am-5.40pm) and 20 January 2020 (9am-2pm), The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1PL
The private view is Friday 17 January 2020, 6-8pm. To attend the private view or for more information about the group and membership, contact Hazel Bate: firstname.lastname@example.org