She smiled as we reached our allotted seats at the same time approaching them from opposite ends of the carriage. I offered her my window seat but she shook her head and, after depositing my bag on the luggage rack, we both sat down and she smiled again. I got 85% of the way through the Guardian's idiot crossword and then gave up. By this time, the train had reached Leicester and I started up a conversation which was really an obvious extension to our brief smiley chat. She was French, from Paris and was studying psychology at Loughborough. I notice now that, when I told her I had Parkinson''s, my speech immediately deteriorated. Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to announce the fact but it's a fine line. Anyway, we whiled away a pleasant few minutes before she left the train and I carried on to Nottingham, determined not to be outwitted by the Nottingham cabbies as I had been last time. This time I walked the 300 yards or so to the hotel (Fare: £0), showered and got ready for my shoot which will be the subject of a separate post.
I had arranged with the woman on reception to have a taxi take me to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery which would be hosting the Reportrait Exhibition which included Samin's amazing work. It was a simply beautiful evening - bright, sunny and warm but with a lovely cooling breeze. The cabbie dropped me off at the castle gate (Fare: £3.90 plus 60p tip) and I was directed onwards by a steward and up to the terrace where I found Samin looking exceptionally pretty in a lovely bluish-green and purple dress which I think she said had been made by her sister. They were in a cluster of people which included her handsome boyfriend Paul, the tall Victoria Vrublevska and boyfriend Thomas instantly noticeable with his beautiful red hair. Matthieu Leger, one of the exhibiting artists was introduced to me, as was his brother and I enjoyed joining in their conversation the jollity of which was heightened by the post-installation euphoria and pre-exhibition nerves. I also met the curator of the show, Tristram Aver, who must have been very proud of how it all turned out.
Then Samin and Paul took me to the room where her 504 circles were displayed and I almost cried with delight. They had told me that the view of them all, standing back, would be impressive but I wasn't prepared for just how stunning the wall of circles would look. But then, I walked towards them and look closely at the images woven on to each one and then suddenly felt a jolt as I recognised myself and members of my family in them and then noticed the similarity of the images of Samin's family. But that wasn't all - I think the most affecting aspect of the work, for me anyhow, was that Samin worked on each one over many months and it was seeing all of them in presentation mode that made me realise how monumental an achievement it was. I then looked at the other images on display and these were wonderful too. I liked particularly the paintings by Jake Wood-Evans which reminded me of the work of Richard Butler (of Psychedelic Furs fame) - I called Jane while I was there and she told me that she had shared a studio very briefly with Jake when we first moved to Brighton 6 years ago. Unfortunately, Jake wasn't there - otherwise, I would have collared him. Then on to Matthieu Leger's wonderfully vibrant canvasses full of colour and movement followed by the contrasting humour of the respective works of Julie Cockburn and Maisie Broadhead and the gorgeous globular mushiness of of the paintings of Antony Micalef. As you can see, I am no expert when it comes to art appreciation so I can only tell you how the exhibition affected me personally. Samin is going to have a solo show in Birmingham soon which will be amazing to see but it was interesting to see how all these different artists' works combined to create such a magnificent dynamic which is a testament to the vision of Tristram Aver's concept.
I wandered into other parts of the gallery and then out again. By then, Samin's family had arrived and she introduced me first to her mother and I recognised Samin in her warm smile and then to her tall father who I chatted to briefly and discovered that he was a chemical engineer who had no artistic background but yet who had begat an artist of extraordinary talent in Samin.
Paul took me down to view Victoria's film of Samin's journey which featured her working in her studio, slicing and weaving, and then her visit to me in Brighton to collect my family images. The film is beautifully made and is a great document of my involvement with Samin, an unlikely collaboration in that I would never have imagined that I would work with an artist of her calibre on something so close to my heart. I could not trust just anyone with my family archive but I knew from the moment I met her that Samin would treasure these items and respect them as if they were her own. As I took off the headphones, Paul and Samin and Victoria were standing there to witness my reaction and I could see my affection for them all reflected in their smiles. Soon after I met the charming Jennie Anderson of the Argentea Gallery in Birmingham where Samin is going to present her solo show in July and we talked about Photo London, Sian Davey, Lee Miller, Man Ray, Jessa Fairbrother (whose talk we both attended earlier this year without realising we were both there mainly because we didn't know each other at the time) and Marta Kochanek who used to have a studio in the Jewellery Quarter where Jennie's gallery is located. I felt we only chatted for a few minutes so how we managed to cram all that in, I don't know.
It was time to say goodbye with kisses and handshakes and a big hug for Samin; my abiding image of her was her standing with Paul looking at what they had created - a superb document of our time.
Postscript: When I left the castle, I was knackered and so I called DG Taxis, the company which had provided the cab which took me to the castle earlier that evening. A taxi drew up and the cabbie beamed and nodded when I said "DG Taxi?" He drove me to the hotel and I got this distinct feeling that we went by a longer route and round a few more roundabouts than were necessary and so it proved when I was asked to pay £6.00 but I was too tired to argue. As I walked to the hotel entrance, I received a text from DG Taxis saying that my taxi had arrived and where was I. So, a final score of Tim 2 Nottingham Cabbies 1 - well at least it was better than the 4-0 drubbing I experienced last time