quinta-feira, 5 de fevereiro de 2009

Revisiting, reassessing and restarting.

Having lived and worked in Britain for the first 52 years of my life I am now living in Brazil; moving here on the 24th October,2003.
I was born in Birmingham and studied there until moving to Exeter, Devon, England, in 1968; at Exeter College of Art( now university status) I studied graphic design and book illustration. Collecting my degree in 1970 and also becoming a member of L.S.I.A.D, the society of industrial artists and designers. After a very brief time as a designer in the Devon Educational Resources Centre, set up to supply schools with well designed educational support, I left to take up full time employment at the Northcott theatre.
At this time my ex wife was approached by the Northcott Theatre, Exeter to produce all their display and advertising media, as well as their programmes and brochures. My constant nightly vigil in the theatre, in order to collect her, eventually paid dividends. One night, whilst chatting to the assistant designer, I was asked if I could paint the scenery for a Passion Play which was to be produced that month. The London painter who had been expected to do the work could not manage the time and the theatre needed some one immediately. This work led to a string of painting jobs and the eventual offer of permanent work as their Property Supervisor; managing the running and finance of the department and having one assistant under my direction.

A programme with the cast list that have now become well known names, sadly with a few having died in recent years. The photos under the title of The Tempest, show me working on the production, making masks. I also had the job of making false breasts for Ariel, the designer, Hayden Griffen, being rather over zealous in wanting them as life like as possible. With this type of rep theatre you are subject to three weeks for each production, often having the added stress of overlapping productions, childrens theatre productions and touring shows. On top of this would be the never ending problem of lack of cash, so invention and negotiation was always at hand. One production of Edward Bond's depicting the life of Shakespeare, starring Sir John Guilgood, had me touring the Moors to get heather to produce a life like garden hedge that needed to grow during the performance and be cropped by the gardner.

One of the earliest of my theatre work, a production of Measure for Measure that included several large heads which where worn by the actors. Made of expanded polysterene with resin.
This work lasted for two years and led to me acquiring contacts in London, these contacts ( for the Royal Court theatre, National Theatre, English National Opera and the Royal Ballet) and a friendship with another scene painter, made me decide to quit full time employment and seek a life as a self employed scene painter, property and special effects maker in London.
Billy Whitelaw and Dame Peggy Ashcroft with Peter Hall, both performances of Samuel Beckets, where with my set and props(burning umbrella) and they were later used for the BBC TV production. The set was made of wood and then covered and textured with plasterers scrim. The umbrella was subjected to many instant changes as Sam Becket and Peter hall strove to get the shows timed to perfection. It often meant having several umbrellas ready that would smoulder at different rates, they both wanted smoke without fire but at a remarkably fast time, also it was to burn and leave only the frame visible. Both Billy and Dame Peggy wore dresses which left their arms and shoulders bare, thus having the problem of any burning embers falling onto the bare skin !!!
With the work and challenges that existed during the 1970's in London for the 8 years that I lived there, I acquired a wealth of knowledge and contacts,as well as it being an inspiring time, it often was physically exausting and consuming of fresh mental ideas, always needing to be one step ahead and able to come up with solutions at the drop of a hat.
I am more than a little short of photographs for the time I was in London and indeed subsequent years, for a bad quirk of fate I have lost a huge stock of photographs and those that did get put onto hard disc during my time in Edinburgh, have also been lost when I put my note-book in for repairs( during 2001). The computer got sent back to the manufacturers who told me they would only supply me with a new. The problem then arose that they would not return the hard disc or make a copy. Masses of my accounts had not been backed up and a large portfolio of work photographs also sadly got trashed.
During my time in London I also worked on shop interior design and special commissions for clients, one of these was for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in Abu dhabi in 1976. I was approached by his London based firm called Tridex, to produce designs for various parts of a new Majlis ( a meeting place, for ambassadors and other notaries that wish to meet the Sultan) with the general instruction that he liked French designs. So I produced many designs for cast iron balustrades and handrails and lighting , all in a French colonial or art nouveau style. Also I produced working drawings for the construction of a roof and its integral chandelier, this was to have water cascading down it and into a pool at on the ground floor. Designed to be built in pre formed panels of timber and fibre glass that would have been bolted together with veins of gilded wood, the idea was to create an impression much like the interior of a cathedral but with an Islamic feel, as each of the panels were kite shaped, they formed into star patterns and left a star shaped cascade in the centre( the chandelier). Sadly I have no drawings now or any photos. The same was true for a Bank client in Beirut, where I designed a colourful, semi transparent division for the bank. It was to mask the main area of the bank from the staircase, fully designed and with all the costings made and accepted, I lost the project to an invasion and bombing of Beirut by the Israeli air force.
Two contacts that brought very different results for my work where from the same person, Andrew Saunders( I met Andrew when he was Jocelyn Herbet's assistant on many plays, including the work of Sam Becket, also he was her assistant on the Ned Kelly film, starring Mick Jagger, 'Rolling Stones')
I worked with Andrew on the Pink Floyds American Tour, producing large inflatables that where then flown above the stadium and picked out with flood lights, one of the pigs was fitted with a false vagina and carried small inflated pigs inside her, these were released by pull cord on the ground.
This is a photo of the German version that the group had made but ours was similar, I think much better !!! and also included two children and a TV set. The other far more pleasing work, which continued for several years, was with a couple who had set up a French stove restoration company, at Little Venice in London. Rose Grey and David Maclwain had started this as a side line to them selling crepes to the French in France. They came across so many beautiful stoves, going for nothing, that they decided to buy them, collect them and restore them. Mainly of cast iron but some in ceramic tiles, they had ben produced through out France during the 1800's. David had set up his own company in his house, the basement was the restoration workshop, the ground floor was the office and showroom. The stoves where really works of art, they had such variety and the castings were of a fine quality. Most stoves had ieces missing or broken, no grates or lacking in parts for the door mica( not glass ), it was this that brought us together, I made up the patterns for the missing pieces and they would be then cast at the foundry. I however did produce the designs and patterns for a full size stove and this stove is still in production by a company called Hunter Stoves( they bought David's company.
The whole of this stove was my work, I also did many other stove patterns but have no photographs of this work, it was very similar in spirit to the work that I produced for the Sultan of Abu Dhabi. The patterns were made in Pine and resin and I had to calculate the different amounts of shrinkage so that the whole of the components would fit without any extra engineering or adjustment by grinding, this also meant trying to get a surface that would require very little finishing after the casting was made. A lot of this I had to learn from the foundry ( the original foundry we used was the art foundry that had produced most of Henry Moore's work.

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