From London to ‘The North’
Born in Windsor, London in the late 1940s, I grew up around the post-war era of British architecture. A mixed bag of restoring bomb damaged, historical buildings whilst simultaneously building a ‘futuristic’ city, complete with all new ‘urban-architecture’ see: brutalist concrete blocks with equally brutalist personalities.
Bustling hedgerows and bird filled trees were the past, the new world had arrived. It was awful.
Fortunately, due to mid-life circumstances, I was able to move to the north of England and finally, breathe oxygen instead of concrete particles and dust from the sprawling urban construction sites that spread across the south of the country in the 50’s and 60’s.
Cleveland College of Art and Design
I had always had an interest in the creative arts, having spent many evening classes in the ‘Big City’ learning about garment making and sewing. However, it was nought compared to the freedom one can express with a blank canvas…or even a flat piece of board rescued from a recently demolished internal wall!
I took the opportunity to study fine art at Cleveland College of Art and Design in the late 90’s, earning a Batchelor of Arts Degree in 2001. The final year exhibition show being held in the Lloyds TSB building in Middlesbrough – where I managed to sell my first pieces. Two wall hangings, made from a wide range of recycled materials, old newspapers and huge amounts of PVA glue! Who knows if someone still has these items in their home or in an attic somewhere?
North Yorkshire and the Coast
Middlesbrough, although a stones throw from the coast, is still a town (should be a city) that struggles with identity and has been terribly under-funded by generations of governments through the years. Reliant on ship building, which had all but gone in the 80’s, then reliant on steel exporting, again, destroyed by cheap imports in the 90’s. The town lacks direction and became quite a negative area. Lack of investment, lack of creativity and reduced funding for the arts in the 90’s saw the closure of various art schools and creative spaces. The focus would be on football, the chemical works, the industrial north and it felt like creativity was being stifled.
An opportunity arose to move slightly further south, to the fishing town of Whitby. A postcard in real life, a town that bustles in the summer months and is simply closed in the winter. Here though, there was a working harbour. A port in view of my new home studio. I observed the rusty, noisy fishing trawlers making their way up the River Esk, fishing nets suspended in the air. Man-made but strangely, at one with nature, as the cut their way through the murky river water and dropped their catches on the shore.
It was here that I discovered the process of decay and nature reclaiming what we’ve taken. Fishing boats tied to the harbour wall, rusting, gradually decaying back in to the sea. On the shore, you’d often find bits of boat that had broken off, corroded chains and bits of net entwined with sand, barnacles and seaweed. Everything returns to the earth…eventually.
My work is inspired by the history of my life, from the brutalist urban jungle to the calm of the working sea and the reclamation of nature over man-made materials and objects.
All of my art uses recycled items, recovered from the coast, the forest – truly mixed-media in composition and each piece unique and ‘of the moment’ it was made. No brush strokes here. I work with the materials I find, to shape them as they have shaped our lives…