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Talking shop

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To Blains Art Gallery in Mayfair, where artist Ben Johnson has been exhibiting some of his latest works. My old friend Peter Murray of Wordsearch had organised a party of friends to enjoy the canvasses, showing buildings by John Pawson, Claudio Silvestrin and Lord Foster. Accompanied by Lady Foster, Norman was to be seen chatting with RIBA presidential hopeful Annette Fisher, who in turn sought campaigning advice from expresident Bryan Jefferson.

Cornish architect and lifeboatman Jonathan Ball seemed to be on good form, celebrating some good news from the High Court regarding his tussle with Tim Smit of the Eden Project. Ivan Massow, recently hounded from the chairmanship of the ICA for his views on conceptual art, clearly found Johnson's hyper-realist work more to his liking, as did society portraitist Tim Yeo.

Invited by Peter Murray to give a 'brief 10-minute chat about his work', Johnson silenced the chattering group for a full 35 minutes with a spell-binding talk on his career and influences (Lord Foster and Sir Jack Zunz were top of the list). There was not a murmur from the assembled throng. That man can talk as well as paint. Many remember Ben Johnson's lecture at the RIBA several years ago. Is it time for a reprise?

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