The exhibition brings 30 paintings. The title refers to The Music Boy, a polyptych of four paintings depicting his grandmother and uncle – his mother’s twin brother – playing accordion as a boy before the war.


‘Memories touched by trauma are often fractured, disjunct, hard to distinguish from dreams or nightmares. They can also become confused with the sense impressions of the present, making the real world feel as though haunted by unquiet ghosts that cannot be laid to rest. The Music Boy, Grey is the sketchiest of all these paintings, almost like a pencil drawing executed with the brush. In another sense, it is the most actual of them all, because it is the most rooted in the world of the present-day. Behind the figures, against the skyline, are the faint silhouettes of tall, slim, chimneys, distantly breathing smoke into the sky. They evoke the oil refineries of modern Belgium: structures of steel laced by electric light, issuing fire and smoke, that are visible to anyone on the fringes of Antwerp looking towards the sea. So this is a painting of two things: a scene of modern industry, juxtaposed with the trace of a memory of a barge-hauler’s wife and her son taking a moment of rest. Might this be the painter’s way of implying that, for him, the world of then and the world of now can never be entirely disentangled?’

Excerpt from the essay by Andrew Graham-Dixon, Et in Arcadia Ego

Catalog 168 pages, with texts by Stephen Snoddy, Charlotte Mullins, Andrew Graham-Dixon and Martin Herbert

New Art Gallery Walsall

The Music Boy, Grey