'A Retrospective' resembles an afternoon spent wandering, unplanned, into an art exhibition to pass the time, initially taking in each piece rather casually but then, with a gentle thrill and growing attention, detecting there are connections between everything being presented, connections that reveal themselves gradually through careful consideration and further exploration.
Told initially through the life of Edward who runs a small but ambitious London art gallery with his partner (the energetic Tom who has a keen, enterprising eye for new artists), 'A Retrospective' tells the stories of lives crossing and mingling, each relation to the other revealed in layers and over the maturing years. It is not simply a story about a son's discovery of his mother's past, but also about discovery of another kind, the unfurling of another life, Eleanor, from her childhood with rather odd parents to her eventual evolution as an artist. The connections between the characters are gently revealed through the points at which their lives encounter each other in the present as well as through the discovery of their pasts.
Written in a confident yet gentle style, with beautiful turn-of-phrase and well-crafted descriptions, 'A Retrospective' drew me in, gently and persuasively and I found myself eager to spend time with it. I look forward to Valerie Bird's next exhibition.