Creating artworks for our built environment has always been my passion...
On leaving Art College in 1984 I was determined to create work outside of the gallery system. I wanted to make work out in public spaces. Works which harmonised with, and were part of, our built environment.
This vision was inspired by my long fascination with classical and ancient art and my own belief in art as an expression of all of our existence, open and accessible to all.
Over the course of more than thirty years dedicated to creating site specific artworks that original passion has only increased as I have become more aware of our relationship with our environment and my skills to create such work have broadened and developed.
My first and greatest inspiration has always been ancient art. From cave paintings to Greek Black Figure vases and on to the fabulous mosaic floors of the Roman world. I studied Classics at school and find the British Museum in London is the place I return to again and again. My 'logo' of course was inspired by the many ghostly hands found on ancient cave sites around the world, perhaps the original signature. Not a hand print but the impression left by a hand removed these ancient signatures for me symbolise the effect we leave behind on our environment and also represent a very open and democratic view of artistic participation.
There are two attributes of much of these works that particularly inspire me. One is the integration of these works with the human environment, they are knitted into the everyday life and culture in a way that our society seems to have almost forgotten. The second attribute is the balance of meaning, pattern and abstraction that is something I continuously aspire to.
Of course my fascination with the ancient doesn't mean that I am not continually inspired by the work of contemporary artists.
The whole world of graffiti and street art I find extremely vibrant and inspiring and I am very honoured to have had the opportunity to create with or alongside some great street artists including an amazing project with InkCrew in Bogota and international mosaic artists in Santiago, Chile. I have also taken part in the UpFest, Bristol and the Street Art Biennale in Cali, Colombia.
TOP PICTURE: Mural by INTI at the Street Art Biennale in Cali.
The world of Mosaic Art itself is extremely rich and inspiring and I should also say very friendly, I think it's to do with mosaics taking so much labour that we are all aware that helping each other is necessary – mosaic is a co-operative art.
Four mosaic artist who continually inspire are shown here:–
So starting at the beginning, I was lucky enough to be born in Woolwich, in South East London. My father was a docker and Trade Union activist and my mother a potter and textile artist. I still live in this area and Woolwich is my second passion after art. If I ever want a career change I would become a tourist guide for Woolwich.
Colouring in and sticking was always the only thing I was good at and soon I was heading off to study fine art. I first attended Camberwell school of Art, then St Martins and Hornsey Colleges of Art in London.
When I finished art college in 1985 I knew I wanted to work in the public realm.
I initially began working as a mural artist for a project for Haringey Hospitals and spent two years painting murals there. Following on from that project I founded Haringey Mural Workshop. At the same time I served on the executive of Haringey Arts Council for two years and worked closely with many different community groups.
Haringey Mural Workshop & The first major commission
Haringey Mural Workshop was formed by myself and four colleauges from the Haringey Hospital Arts Project. Artists, Ruth Priestly; Hilary Loebner; Joanne Elaine White; Paul Beaumont and myself formed the mural painting team inspired by Greenwich Mural Workshop from my home town. Perhaps our best work as Haringey Mural Workshop, and my first major commission was in 1987 to paint a series of murals for Alexandra Palace – ‘The History of The Peoples Palace’. If you look carefully you can spot a portrait of myself and the team in the mural.
The First Mosaic Commission
After the Mural Workshop disbanded I headed back to my own neighbourhood and formed a new group called Wallscapes initially working with the fab Belfast artist Ruth Priestley. Ruth and I took on our first mosaic commission from my parent’s attic. Aren’t you impressed we got all the material for a 4m x 4metre mosaic up into the attic and then once it was made got it back down again… That first mosaic, ‘Sunburst – the light at the end of the tunnel’, commissioned by the London Borough of Islington, would turn out to be a turning point in my life.
Ruth Priestly, myself and Rob Turner painting the Love Over Gold Mural in Deptford, south east London
The Wallscapes Years
In 1990 Ruth left to go back to Belfast and artist and old St Martins colleague Rob Turner joined Wallscapes. Rob and I went on to work as Wallscapes for over ten years. During this time we completed numerous public art projects across the UK, honing and refining our mosaic technique. In 2001 Rob and I decided we needed to go our own ways in order to explore and develop our own work.
The 'Wellingborough Wells ' 'Town Centre Mosaic
Some of the Wallscapes projects
art for landscape
Drostle Public Arts
Since 2000 I have built up a successful studio in south east London creating large scale site specific artworks to my own designs and occasionally collaborating with other artists.<
A growing international reputation
With thirty years experience now under my belt and a mantlepiece full of awards my work is now in demand abroad too. Over the last few years I have gained international recognition for my mosaics, completing major commissions in Iowa, Chicago, California and Washington DC. I have also been luck enough to work on community projects in Colombia and Chile. At home I continue to create major public artworks including commissions for TFL – Transport for London, Chester City Council, London Borough of Bexley, The Royal College of General Practitioners and many more.
Education and waving the flag for mosaic art
All that experience and commitment has resulted in being elected as Chair and then President of the British Association for Modern Mosaic and being a regular guest lecturer at the Chicago Mosaic School. I have also given keynote speeches, workshops and juried exhibitions at the London conference of the British Association and the San Francisco, Pheonix, San Diego, Austin, Chicago and Detroit conferences of the Society of American Mosaic Artists.
Becoming interested in all things mosaic I began looking at the specific British heritage of mosaic art. Unfortunately it soon became apparent that there was precious little information on the more recent mosaic history in the UK. Many of the major mosaic studios operating through the Victorian era, some of which went through to the 1960’s and 70’s had disappeared without trace. So I was very happy to be one of the founders of the BAMM Andamento mosaic journal and be on the magazines editorial board to try and record this fascinating crafts history.
Now in its 17th edition you can buy the ANDAMENTO mosaic journal from the British Association for Modern Mosaic from the BAMM website