Boris Johnson’s mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, has had more to deal with than most in terms of ill health. Dealing with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in the 70’s when little was known about how to treat the illness, and later Parkinsons Disease, would have floored a lesser character. The suffering of leaving your husband and children for hospital because you were so desperately ill would have finished most loving mothers off. Boris’s mother then remarried, only to lose her second husband to cancer after nine years, he died in her arms.But this exhibition at The Mall Gallery bursts with colour and life. Dreadful situations such as therapy sessions at the Maudsley Hospital are laced with wry humour. One particularly amusing painting shows Boris as a child, holed high up a tree, scowling like a little monkey, all painted in blues. Idiosyncratic portraits of the Johnson children show their sorrow, but also the unbreakable thread of the experience that bound them together as an exceptionally strong and loving family.The depths of human misery is shown by the artist, as in the painting “It has not worked”, when after an agonisingly painful stay at the Maudsley Hospital, Charlotte realises she isn’t better. But there is also sheer love of life and wild originality in the colourful, quirky cityscapes from New York and London that are full of vitality.A view of Tower Bridge, painted from City Hall in 2012, has the bridge lurching hilariously backwards and there is a marvellously original, colourful vision of a tube journey as if on acid. (Subway NYC, 1994). There are joyful portraits of seventies parties, some of the guests with bouncing bare breasts and rounded bottoms, and astutely observed portraits of close friends. One portrait is an absolutely beautiful depiction of a young and foxy Joanna Lumley, reclining on a fur rug.Charlotte Johnson Wahl has achieved a huge body of work apart from the paintings in this exhibition. favourie colours are lilacs and blues.
“A Family Hanged by Circumstance” is the title of one of the paintings. Impossible not to feel the anguish. But the huge success of the Johnsons, individually and as a family, shows dire circumstances overcome.