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Keeping art in the family

Claire Adler is a freelance journalist based in London. She specialises in writing about luxury, especially jewellery, watches and design.

Artist Charlotte Mann grew up around people talking about art. Her parents are both landscape painters and her brother is a photographer and film-maker.

"Ever since I was a child, we'd always have an input in our father's paintings," says Charlotte. He'd ask us questions like: Where is the light coming from? Can you guess what height the sun is at? It was like a detective game. Art for me was a natural, seamless kind of learning. It was part of my life, like learning to read."

The artist, who has doodled a backdrop for fashion designer Peter Jensen's spring 2007 catwalk show, created an installation for Savile Row's B-store and adorned a Kickers boot with her drawings, says she "tried to rebel" by rejecting a career in fine art and flirting with the idea of a career in architecture or theatre design instead.

"I've tried not to be an artist, but I realised I'm supposed to be an artist, with all those things I was brought up with," Charlotte muses.

How fitting then, that as art remains a natural and undeniable part of Charlotte's life, a full and well-lived life is central to her latest project.

Charlotte Mann's mural in the teaching space at the just opened School of Life in London's Bloomsbury depicts a room brimming with the endless stuff that makes up a bustling life. Using just a black marker pen on white emulsion paint, Charlotte has drawn shelves stacked up high with books, a laptop, a TV broadcasting an ice hockey game between Brazil and France, a pair of Nike Air Jordan 7s and an unfinished copy of The Trouble With Being Born by C M Cioran.

"One of the things the mural is designed to do is trigger conversation and inspire debate during the School of Life's courses about work, play, politics, family and love," says Charlotte, who completed the work of art in just over a month.

Now, a unique family collaboration has seen Charlotte's brother Peter, make a Channel 4 documentary and write a book with their father. Sargy Mann has been going progressively blind since the 1970s and lost his sight completely during the filming. In the book, Sargy: Probably the Best Blind Painter in Peckham, father and son explore 27 of Sargy's paintings, discovering where they ended up and how they have enhanced the lives of the people who own them. The locations vary from the Arts Council to the corridor outside someone's bathroom. In the book, Peter's photographs of his father's paintings hanging in private homes throw light on Sargy's answers to his son's questions about visual perception.

The book is inspired by a book by Renoir's son entitled Renoir, My Father. "You don't look at a painting. You live with it … it becomes part of your life," Renoir told his son.
"All my life, our family have always discussed the business of making images and pictures in the context of life and being," says Charlotte. 

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