'He's not who I thought he was', says artist inviting public to deface Boris Johnson painting

'He's not who I thought he was', says artist inviting public to deface Boris Johnson painting

The painting of Boris Johnson, with a red smudge superimposed. Image: Helen Masacz/Lot5/Instagram

Thursday, November 8, 2018

An artist will let the public deface a painting she did of Boris Johnson, because he’s “not who [she] thought he was”.

Helen Masacz painted the former Foreign Secretary, who was then London Mayor, in 2010, and the portrait was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery.

But Ms Masacz, who was previously an admirer of Mr Johnson, became increasingly disillusioned by his politics, and will be taking donations from members of the public so they can paint over her work.

All money collected will go to Shelter, the homeless charity.


'A great opportunity'

“Are you forward to having your portrait sorely defaced tonight?” asked talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright, as Ms Masacz joined him on the afternoon show.

“Absolutely, it’s a great opportunity actually to raise funds and give a donation to Shelter,” she said.

“There are so many homeless people around at the moment and it’s escalating.”

Attendees at the private viewing at London’s Royal Opera Arcade, put on by art collective Lot5 on November 8, can pay a minimum of £1 to daub paint on the portrait, and Wright pledged a £20 donation live on air.


'He let the public down'

The portrait, for which Ms Masacz said she “tidied up his hair a bit”, features Mr Johnson holding a large snail-like creature.

“What’s the mollusc about?” asked Wright.

“He describes himself as hard on the outside and soft in the middle, but if you look at the shell, it’s completely empty,” Ms Masacz replied.

“I just think my job as an artist is to create debate, so the Boris cover-up is essentially a mouthpiece, not just for me, but for the people he let down, the public.”

When Mr Johnson sat for her, they talked “briefly” about politics, she said.

“]We talked] mainly about my local area. I was asking if the funds were there to fix one of the local housing areas and he said ‘yes, it’s all in hand’, but it’s still there, completely untouched.”


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Nevertheless, she said painting the MP was a “nice experience”.

“I was grateful he gave me the chance to paint him. At the time I thought he was quite an interesting character and quite an affable man,” Ms Masacz remembered.

“But as time moved on, this image of him is waning.

“He’s not who I thought he was. I think a lot of people are very disillusioned with the whole Brexit thing, and people feel like Boris is feathering his own nest and not putting the people first.”

“Well, he’s feathering his new brand new nest because he’s been kicked out the family home,” Wright pointed out.

“I did wonder if his wife might be one of the guests of honour tonight actually!”

“She’s very welcome!” Ms Masacz said. “Anybody’s welcome… I just think the world’s gone bonkers.”