Medium:Collage mixed media and oil on panel (Reproduced here as a monochrome image)
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A WINDOW ON LONDON 1961
The year was 1961, America was in the hands of a glamorous elite, the Kennedy’s. Cuba and earthquakes abroad arrested the British consciousness, while it romanced about Liverpool, Twiggy and the London
Pop art scene. Life seemed more black and white then, either you succeeded or you failed and success came from hard work unless you had
some powerful contacts to give you a helping hand. An element that we held in awe but didn’t entirely trust.
The art world tipped its hat to history, inhaling a multitude of glorious influences without fearing the loss of originality, a fear so prevalent in the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ world of Post Modernism. The Sunday colour
supplements provided a plethora of diverse images that could be used as pictorial reference by young artists. Forays into photography provided a sense of magic, a process so unlike painting though irritatingly a highly finished painted image was compared to that which was made through a lens with the push of a button.
‘A Window on London’ broke new ground. I had continued paintings onto the frames (as Seurat did) and now in 1961 I was ready to extend the realms of the image beyond the canvas, to marry the image with objects found in the everyday environment. Windows were and are the focus of great fascination. Windows allow you to look out from one world to another, mingling bright light with a darkened interior. Which world is real?
The window edits the continuum of the scene, just as a canvas does, just as a proscenium arch theatre does, they focus our perception, reflecting
two simultaneous worlds.
The scene changes through time but the window does not, just as a mirror
reflects your changing face, your changing life. A painting is made through the passage of time, in layers. Bernard Cohen tried to make paintings that revealed the journey of the painting and Jackson Pollock did when his process was filmed through a sheet of glass from below.
Collage presents a multiple image, each fragment a replacement for the painted mark. Then there was the way a fragment of an image behaved and interacted with other fragments. Minute fragments created a pictorial texture while larger images worked as a compliment or in opposition to the world within the work.
This was a time of powerful questioning of the subject, the media and the process. Did a predetermined frame, shape or boundary, falsely restrict the
image? Years of anguishing led to my art for Led Zeppelin in 1970 that
used scale, implied movement beyond the format to dissolve the square.
You could accept that the image worked as a unit while at the same time conceive that it travelled beyond the edges; the image as part of a greater or even continuous whole.
When making ‘A Window on London’, images where adhered to surfaces which were then burned, split, crushed, torn, sometimes violently as if the act of creating was attached to the anger and great sadness of the subject.
A portrait of Sir Winston Churchill was put inside the crushed eye piece of
A gas mask. The face of an African child became part of a tea-chest fragment, shattered until the face all but disappeared. The process was therefore not a safe one, nor did it have a predetermined outcome, it varied between pain and pleasure, taking on its own existence.
Elements of satire, threat, dying traditions and pageantry, childhood isolation, inequality, gender, privilege, all became a part of what emerged.
A tutor said ‘You can’t put it all into one painting.’ I replied ‘Breughel did,
Bosch did.’ I later realise that the concept of ‘all’ meant all that you could summon, all that you could express, all that you could develop with each individual work, so Picasso did too!
The exciting thing is that with each work, you make a friend of a stranger, you watch your hand as if driven by many others. Later you remake an acquaintance with these strange friends, you pour over them tracing the surface with your fingers, this other world, this fragment of time you have lived.
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