December 2016

The Ghost of Harry Mafuji

'He was a bit of a character, very difficult to understand...I used to know Harry Mafuji, although not very well, I did show some work with him once in a Japanese restaurant in soho- I'm not sure if I showed at the gallery or not, but definitely would have visited. I was just trying to remember more about him and the gallery etc--- and couldn't find that much info by googling-- so thought to email you. What happened to Harry? Did he and his partner go back to Japan, or leave London in any case? Any more information would be great - I just wanted to know a bit more. I remember him as a lovely person.. I'm curious about the title of your next show The Ghost of Harry Mafuji. In what way,I wonder, does this connect to the Harry[Haruo] Mafuji whom I met twenty years ago, before he moved to Edinburgh? Ah yes! It's coming back now! Wasn't it above dalston underground studios, where your gallery was for a while? Has Harry died, Monika? That was my initial thought, with the title, but wanted to check X .. Ah ... interesting, thank you 'his Dalston studio/gallery was where I met Haruo - as you say, difficult to understand, but irresistible smile and engagement.'

The real Harry Mafuji had a gallery in Dalston at the turn of the century. Back then, it wasn't the trendy place it is now, but there were a lot of artists living and working there. They used to come to Harry's private views on Saturday nights, and the gallery was a bit of a hub for artists, as there weren't many other places to go then. There was always bread and cheese and beer.

He showed an awful lot of artists in his gallery, and a regular fixture was the annual 14 x 14 group show, where each artist had to produce a 'democratically' scaled work measuring exactly 14 x 14 inches, which was then displayed in an enormous gridlike hang of artworks on Harry's gallery walls.

It isn't clear whether the 14 x 14 ever produced any work of real quality, but it gave artists an opportunity to exhibit and congregate, and that's what Harry's gallery was really about.

I met Harry on a course run by Paul Hedge about how to run a gallery, and when Harry decided to give up his gallery after a few years, I took it over, and it became my first gallery, Lounge, in Shacklewell Lane.

Canal's exhibition, The Ghost of Harry Mafuji, is a nod to those 14 x 14 shows, but in this incarnation, the brief for the artists was to restrict themselves to a total dimension of 16 x 16 inches: within that, they were free to do what they liked.

Less communistic, more individualistic, where stand out works stand out and where every work has its place.

Monika Bobinska, December 2016