The beginnings of a public arts team
The Wallsacpes public art team was founded by Gary Drostle in 1989 after the disbandment of Haringey Mural Workshop. Initially joined by Belfast artist Ruth Priestly Wallscapes carried out it’s first commissions for Outset UK and the London Borough of Lewisham creating the “Love Over Gold Mural” in Deptford. In 1990 Ruth and Gary created their first mosaic commission. “The Light At The End Of The Tunnel” was a wall mosaic for the London Borough of Islington. Ruth then left to go back to Belfast and Gary worked on the community opera production of “The Last Great Northern Hippo Show” directed by artist Keith Khan for the Opera North company in Leeds.
Gary is joined by St Martin’s School of Art colleague, artist Rob Turner
Later in 1990 Gary was joined by artist and old St Martins colleague Rob Turner. Rob had initially helped out on the Love Over Gold Mural. Rob and Gary went on to work as Wallscapes for over ten years. During this time they completed numerous public art projects across the UK, honing and refining their public art technique.
The success of Gary and Rob as Wallscapes was due to their unique collaboration in design and fabrication.
A working method for success
The Wallscapes working method was similar for each project commission. They would begin by approaching each project like a sponge. Listening to the client and community and researching site specific history. Looking at geology and environmental features. Soaking up all the information they could gather and discussing the results. Once this process had been completed Gary and Rob would go away and draw up their own designs. These were then presented to the client giving each client a variety of design solutions to choose from. Gary’s usual designs leaning to figurative and tonal work and Rob working more with colour and symbolic linear work.
On some projects whether it was a tight brief or a meeting of minds Gary’s and Rob’s solutions would be so close as to present the same idea. One such project was the ‘Great Flood Frieze’ created for Greenwich Hospital. Gary and Rob’s design was inspired by their mutual interest in archaeology and in particular the ‘Standard Of Ur’, an ancient mosaic in the British Museum in London dating back to the 3rd Millennium BC.
For other projects Gary and Rob’s designs would be completely different. On these projects the client would choose their preferred design and then that artist would become the project leader.
Spot the difference
A good example of one of Rob’s designs would be the Wellingborough Wells mosaic, which shows his love of geometric designs.
Another good example is the colourful ‘Hockwell Ring Carnival Mural’ in Luton, UK which demonstrates his creative use of community source materials and colour.
A typical design by Gary would be the ‘One Town That Changed The World’ mural in Dartford, Kent which illustrates his figurative use of perspective and tone.
The Gloucester Trade Trail Mosaics also demonstrate Gary’s design preference for tonal work and the use of historical references.
Collaborating with other artists
As well as there own designs Gary and Rob had the privilege of working with other artists including: Tom Phillips RA.
End of an Era
In 2001 Rob and Gary decided they needed to go their own ways in order to explore and develop their own work and Wallscapes was disbanded. After another ten years working independently Gary founded Drostle Public Arts Ltd in 2011.