In his own Words: John Kirby on The Living and the Dead at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool

By Ben Miller | 18 January 2012
A photo of a man in a suit standing next to an oil painting of a small child in a pink dress
John Kirby with Lost Child (1998). Oil on canvas
In his own Words: Artist John Kirby tries to pick his favourite work from The Living and the Dead, the major current exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool...

"Asking an artist to name a favourite painting is like asking a mother which is her most loved child.

Should it be little 'a', with her bandy legs and permanently runny nose, or 'b', who is bossy and cheeky and will probably come to a sticky end?

To see so many paintings I've not seen for so long is both embarrassing and revealing of the narrowness of my interests and obsessions.

I also note how my ambition has waned over the years, but I'm glad to see that the sculpture holds its own. I thought it might seem slight and rather lost.

If, god forbid, the Walker Art Gallery was to burn down with me in it, what would I save? Something small and portable, probably.

Lost Child, the little boy or girl in its pink dress with pearl buttons, was done when I lived in Brighton and didn't have a studio space. It was painted in my small kitchen.

It shows the influence of religious painting on my work and the ambiguity of sex and gender. It’s an attempt to paint the soul, my soul, in fact or how I feel it should be.

Ask me tomorrow, though, and I’d choose something else."

More pictures from the show:

An image of a painting of a husband and wife at a breakfast table with a portrait of Jesus hanging on the wall behind them
Last Supper (1984-99)© Courtesy Flowers, London
A photo of a sculpture of a white head with thin long horns coming out of it on a white wall
Actaeon (2010)© Courtesy Flowers, London
An image of an oil painting of two priests in white gowns gesticulating at each other on a coastal landscape
Lost Boys (1991)© Courtesy Flowers, London
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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