Face Value
Keep Me Posted, by Rosie Garthwaite
Henry John is an artist with a very peculiar mission. Instead of more run-of-the-mill ways of selling his work – galleries and stuff – this 23-year-old graduate of the Ruskin College of Art in Oxford is turning to the most unlikely of media: the Royal Mail.

“I’ve decided to post my work instead of going through a gallery,” he says from the elegant recesses of his airy, double-height studio just off the King’s Road, a space he shares with his photographer brother Zachary. He seems shy at first, pulling a bright green jumper nervously over his knuckles, but there’s an underlying self-possession that says he’s got just what it takes to pull this whole crazy plan off. Not only is he good-looking, in that casual, just tumbled out of bed way (one hand’s holding a smoking roll-up, the other’s raking through a mass of confused tawny curls), but there’s also the fact that he’s currently stepping out with a very glamorous boho nymph, film candy Rosamund Pike, and, as the great-grandson of Augustus John, there’s the impeccable artistic heritage to boot. All of which make him one perfectly formed struggling young artist.

Prints will be made of Henry's work, some 300 watercolours inspired by the human face, and posted to a selection of people who are “not all famous, but all have good taste.” There will be no price tag, and, as Henry puts it, payment will be “up to them. They decide what they’d like to do with it. The parcel will just fall through their letter box one day: a harmless intervention.” Victims of the experiment will then hopefully attend an exhibition, Face Value, which follows at the end of September.

It’s more than convenient, of course, that Henry’s first step into the art world – beyond a small exhibition he held in Cornwall in May – should coincide with the much-anticipated Augustus and Gwen John retrospective at Tate Britain. But, having grown up in the shadow of the John legend, he’d rather critics didn’t draw instant comparisons. “It was just a coincidence,” he smiles, spreading his hands in mock-amusement. “Honest.”