I'm getting closer to starting my Community Artist in Residence, hopefully by the end of June. Many thanks to RBKC and the V&A Museum for working out the logistics of establishing a studio space at 7 Shalfleet Drive. This is a former council house property and will eventually become part of the new building development at More West.
Cycling around North Kensington, one can see and hear the numerous regeneration schemes. These range from luxury apartments at The Ladbroke Grove to mixed private and social housing at Wornington Green . All providing much-needed housing, although there is the perennial question of affordability and potential impacts on community. Other new builds include a leisure centre and Academy school.
As part of my background research, I'm looking at the historic pattern of housing development in the borough and the architectural quality of buildings and listed structures. This will provide a useful context for understanding the complex social process of urban renewal. I will be involving local residents and community groups in art that explores this theme. Working with St Anne's Nursery School (1908, one of the oldest in London) will be exciting. Really interested to see how their kids make panoramic drawings and convert these into a cityscape model.
In the slideshow above, there is a recent drawing of mine. This has three time references and indicates how I will be merging the past and present to signpost the future.
Top right we have the Ladbroke Estate taking shape from the 1820's-70s. This was a boom and bust period that chimes with our most recent recession. Housing is being built on the fields and privately owned plots in West London. In the sketch, we can see speculative business men, planners and architects, theodolites and topographical designs. Thomas Allason and Thomas Allom gave us the distinctive lay-out of terraces, garden squares and the majestic St Peter's church (covered in my last blog).
Top left, there are pre and post-war developments with estates and high-rises. This is mass social housing built by the London Councils and architects like Erno Goldfinger. Buildings with modern amenities that replaced so-called "slums" in the borough. More West is currently being built in relation to the pre-existing Silchester Estate and will involve the re-housing of some of the tenants on the estate into the new bloc.
Bottom left in the sketch are the various apartment blocks for More West with an inner garden and a roof-sculpture made by Nathan Coley (hand raised in photo). The new housing has been designed by architect Joanna Sutherland from Haworth Tompkins. We see her, sketched, bottom centre, as a designer of the built environment in the tradition of Allason and Allom. In the photo, Joanna is demonstrating the brick work that will be used on site. Mace are expertly managing the construction process of concrete, steel, brick, wood, plastic and glass. Peabody are a key investor in this development. My game plan is to feature all of these (materials, methods and personnel) in the various art and film projects during my six month residency.
Have we but enough time, space and imagination?
This is my first visit to St Peter's Notting Hill and the church is sheer stone delight. It was designed by architect, Thomas Allom and built in 1855-57 at the same time as he engineered the layout of the surrounding Ladbroke Estate. This is the classic image of Notting Hill; terraces of stuccoed brick houses that back onto private garden squares. It is not a million miles away from the "grungy" edges of North Kensington that I usually inhabit. This is a research trip in preparation for my forthcoming community artist residency and trying to locate new regeneration schemes in relation to the history of architecture and urban development.
The past can come back to haunt us. As we speak, Thomas Allom must be kicking in his grave at Kensal Green cemetery. An architect and building contractor recently pleaded guilty in court to causing irreversible damage to a Grade II listed house designed by Allom. This is just around the corner from the church at 18 Kensington Park Gardens. The interior of the property was gutted with the loss of period plasterwork, floorboards and fireplaces. The house is currently being restored by another firm.
On more hallowed ground, there is a lovely exhibition currently at St Peter's called Polarities. It features the work of Edward Allington, Asaki Khan (featured in photo), Katherine Lubar and Terry Jones (also photographed). I had fun attempting to "row" Terry's sculptural boat. Taking shoes and socks off, I meditated and walked across the installation of salt and sand created by Asaki.
How do these artists conceive of polarities in relation to their art?
"The idea of contrast has always been an influence on the practice of the artists in this show. There are many opposing elements that can be read into the work: hot and cold, light and shadow, negative and positive, and of course, the metaphysical: light and dark - good and bad - which bears special relevance to this particular space."
Only now showing on the 16th and 17th May from 1-5pm. Well worth catching before it closes.
A Canterbury Tale is a wonderfully enigmatic 1944 film made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It's in my top ten list of all time favourites. The story concerns 2 soldiers, a Brit and Yank, who team up with an enterprising land girl to solve the case of the glue man who "attacks" women out courting at night. I can understand why this was P&P's first commercial and critical failure. The film was ahead of its time, employing a loose innovative structure, with a complex set of characters. The narrative slows down and feels documentary in places. It conjures a mystical Kent landscape where the lush fields lead to the bomb sites of Canterbury and a cathedral that holds spiritual redemption. I can imagine a war-artist like Graham Sutherland inhabiting these spaces.
Oil pastel drawing
from film still: 2011
A is for Alison.
Alison having glue washed from her
hair by several pairs
of male hands.