Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mobile Sculptures

In 1958 to 1959 I travelled the world, writing and drawing.
            On my return I set about building a house on the cinders of a tumbledown, medieval cottage that I had bought for around £400 in order to have roots in England.
            When the half of the house that I could afford to build was finished, it needed a weathervane.
            So I bought a sheet of copper to form a double-sided, sculptural depiction of a P-R rose. On installation, it was out of proportion to the house – too large. So it was abandoned, found years later in a hedge, and now resides somewhere in the country.
            At that time I was having difficulty in returning to painting after so long away drawing. It occupied my mind.
            As it was so difficult once more to use paint and canvas, my plan was to make coloured paper collages so that I could distil landscape into simple shapes.
            There was copper sheet left over from making the weathervane, so I cut it, painted it, and pinned the painted metal to a wooden framework – a sort of three-dimensional collage/sculpture. I think I did three of them. They were quite small. One was lost, and two I somehow managed to retain intact over the years.
            One of the three was of a cut-out woman cavorting over the painted copper White Horse Downs, at Uffington, now Oxfordshire.
            A large German neighbour in London also cavorted over an obstacle in that part of the world, fell, and broke her leg. In sympathy, I gave her the copper and wood sculpture of the leaping woman.
            She lived next door and, before leaving to go elsewhere, I noticed this sculpture lying among builders’ rubble in her garden. How could it be recovered?
            I asked her if I might photograph it for my records. She gave it back to me.
            The copper part of the leaping woman was just as I had cut and painted it – green downs and whitish figure. The white horse, painted on the green grass, had also stood the test of time.
            But now the timber frame had been much eaten by woodworm, and had to be dealt with by the application of killer liquid.
            Then the wooden dowel rods holding the sides together had to be replaced, and the worm-eaten sides filled and generally made good.
            Because the killer fluid affected the paintwork, a new coat of green grass had to be applied.
            When completed, the sculpture had the mellow feel of an antique.
            It, and the other one of the three pieces, resided on top of a wall of books in my house.
            I must have taken the sculptures down at some time to show them, for, one day, a collector telephoned and offered to buy the leaping woman.
            What was I to charge?
            My advisor in artistic matters was on his way to Singapore by aeroplane. I telephoned him on his mobile number. ”Call me back in ten minutes,” he said over a crackling line. In ten minutes I might have been speaking with him as if he were in the next street.
            His advice took into consideration auction estimates and commission costs.
            I now had a price to work with. The sum decided upon was accepted.
            The sculptural weathervane, like the leaping woman, had both been thrown away and later found. The theme of each had been mobility. Now they were also quite well travelled.

Monday, January 07, 2013

On Doing Without

I have read recently of someone whose mobile telephone went on the blink for a period of time. The owner discovered the great pleasure of no longer being in constant contact with acquaintances and business colleagues. Never having owned such an object, I can understand the pleasure they took in their temporary isolation from this world of over-communication.
            Again, two men that I have known, who both made their fortunes, ran their empires from the office or over convivial lunchtime meetings – both abhorring the use of a mobile telephone.
            I, or we, have owned a car for many years. Living in the country with poor public transport, it was an essential adjunct to everyday, family life.
            On moving to London again, some 24 years ago, I gave away my car to a son, and was happy to do without it.
            Now, after much the same period of sharing my wife’s splendid Toyota, Rav 4, four wheel drive car, we have decided to do without it, and she has given it away to a niece, who needs it for broadcasting work around the country.
            Our main use for a car in London was for shopping when heavy items were involved, or when driving to Newhaven for the Channel ferry to Dieppe. There we indulged ourselves with good living for a few days, and returned to London with the back of the car filled with low cost, but very drinkable wine (144 bottles being our record).
            For much of recent times the car has been parked nearby, lying idle, and used mainly for bulk shopping and to re-charge the battery.
            A car is an expense and a worry. If we hear of a crash of metal outside, we no longer fear for the car’s bodywork. And as for the expense, what money we have saved – with licence fee, AA, insurance, MOT, service, repairs, tyres, parking fees, petrol, and the obligatory accoutrements for safety and foreign travel – we could take a cab almost every day of the year.
            It is true we have lost our lovely breaks in Dieppe, but what Dieppe has to offer, so has London. And we have been shocked on each recent visit to France by the inflation of prices all round. So we may pay a bit more when eating out grandly in London, but most things are cheaper here.
            Now, all the paperwork and cost of a car have vanished – and with it the worry involved.
            To simplify life is much to be desired.