This autumn the London artist Julian Perry (born 1960), who has just been nominated for the prestigious
Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award, will be showing extraordinary paintings inspired by a small area of
allotments destined to be destroyed to make way for London's 2012 Olympics. A Common Treasury is
an exhibition that presents vivid portraits of the sheds that pepper Manor Gardens allotments.
Painted on single and diptych panels, these highly detailed works reflect social and environmental
issues. Reminiscent of Northern European altarpieces, dramatic chiaroscuro models the motifs against a
neutral, often dark background. Each subject is rendered with affection and fidelity; surface textures of
flaking paint, rotting wood and asphalt appear remarkably tangible. The dilapidated huts evoke the
tradition of the picturesque hovel or biblical stable, desperate, almost comically bad housing depicted in
loving detail by artists such as Brueghel, Rembrandt and Constable. Perry's works echo this historic
tradition whilst being rooted in contemporary East London.
Perry sees the sheds built from recycled materials as idealistic, representing the city dweller's retreat into
a less complicated life based around the seasons. The structures are seen as utopian sculptures (in
decline), manifesting a creativity born out of the most basic desires for shelter and food.