Just Say Cheese

The play in three acts is based on a true story, about a legendary painting by Johnny Shaw at Glasgow School of in the late 90’s. (In the film Johnny play himself as the artists.) The painting was titled “Just Say Cheese” and was the only painting ever to banned from an Art School exhibition for fear of committing serious offense.

In 1998 Johnny was looking to put more issues in his work so he went to he library and found a black and white image of a starving Ethiopian family. He was influenced by the work of Ken Curry at the time, and he started to paint image of the family in ghostly violets and purples.

In the photograph he selected, a starving mother holds a child that is suckling on her breast. Johnny got the proportions all wrong, the child was too far away from the mother’s teet. So in order to resolve this, he extended the breast to about the length of an arm, so it would reach the child’s lips.

Johnny felt dissatisfied by the large canvas, and decided to paint a gaudy frame on the canvas around the image of the Ethiopian family. He named it ‘Just Say Cheese’, because he imagined the irony of a photographer saying this to try and make the family smile.

Johnny hanged the painting for the third year show, the tutor demand that it should be taken down immediately as would cause offense. In his final critique of the year he was told in no uncertain terms he had regressed. The painting is lost and was last seen in a Barnardos charity shop, the painting has disappeared but the legend still lives on to this day.