Lorne Jackson meets an art student who’s turned his home into a public gallery for budding artists.
It’s your standard suburban house, with one of those quirky little extras that impress estate agents.
Though, on further consideration, I’m not sure an estate agent would like this renovation.
We’re not talking about freshly grouted tiles in the bathroom, or a gazebo for the garden.
Andre De Jong’s Moseley home has its very own art gallery.
As far as De Jong is concerned, home is where the art is. Which is why, at the end of last year, he converted the front room into a space for enjoying cutting-edge works.
It wasn’t merely done for his own amusement. Exhibitions are held regularly, with viewings open to the public.
The latest exhibition – a video installation by the artist Anne Guest – began this week.
When I arrive at De Jong’s gallery, I’m not sure I’ve come to the right place.
I’m strolling down a row of terrace houses, so traditional they could be tagged onto the end credits of Coronation Street. Cats loll on window ledges and hedgerows rustle in the wind.
I doubt the Louvre has many pet moggies on standby. (Or hedgerows, come to that.)
But I’m definitely in the right place, because here is De Jong, sipping a mug of tea while relaxing on a bench in his front garden.
He welcomes me into his home – sorry, art gallery – and indeed, I could easily have just ambled into the Ikon.
De Jong has turned the front room into a white cube. Even the window has been replaced by a white wall, with a quirky video installation projected onto it.
What on earth possessed him to do it?
“Well, I also happen to be an art student at Birmingham City University,” he says. “And one of the modules was ‘Professional Practice’, which is about getting out into the field.
“So this started as a university project, but it’s exceeded all expectations and proved popular. I’m now on artist number seven or eight, that I’ve exhibited here. I guess you could say that what I’m doing is an aspect of David Cameron’s Big Society.”
As De Jong points out, the art he displays is never conventionally pretty or anodyne.
“You’re not likely to find watercolours and landscapes,” he says. “It’s normally rather challenging, what you’ll encounter here, though not necessarily in an offensive way. But the viewer needs to work at it. It’s not all laid out for you, like in a popular magazine.”
Indeed. What I’m looking at is a video of a tub of Flora margarine. Then the words, “I can’t believe it’s not butter’ flash on the screen.
Next we cut back to the tub, which is opened to reveal a dead bird, encased in ice.
Several more half-humorous, half-horrific images follow. Yet this jarring piece pales when compared to previous works De Jong has exhibited.