Theastai, ‘behold’


Research and work noted before in my earlier post on Frances Darlington has led me on to produce this theatrical assemblage. According to my computer’s dictionary, the word Theatre comes from the Latin ‘Theatrum’, which in turn comes from the Greek, Theatron which mixes the stem Thea from Theastai meaning to behold and the suffix “tron” meaning place.

The theatre as construction here is both sculpture, frame and integral part of the assemblage. Thinking of all the long humming and ha-ing around plinths in contemporary sculpture, my ‘frame’ is the only part of truly artisan work involved in the piece, involving drawing, collage, design, screen printing and construction. What is shown inside it is the also a place and the vision of a place. A moving digital collage of images of The Kings Road in London.

Central to the sequence is a battered old studio on Manresa Road where Frances Darlington lived and worked for at least 5 years between 1934 and 1940. This building has become a personal icon for me, because it not only represents Darlington’s last London studio, but on a wider vista, in its decrepit state somehow captures the frailty of the old art scene. A type of art production that relied on studio practise and craftsmanship. There is a second photograph which I am using as the subject for a painting which will follow.

The Kings Road has manifold resonances of its own. Steeped in Bohemian history since the days of Rossetti, Chelsea has reverberated velvets, mystics and beats in every ensuing year since Dante Gabriel took a lease out at Cheyne Walk. As I began to think about it, so much of the British idea of “artist” was associated with that area, with The Pre Raphaelites, Ellen Terry (who lived on the Kings Road), Pink Floyd who recorded at Sound Technique studios on Church Street (where Charles Kingsley who wrote The Water Babies used to live). The Beatles opened up The Apple Store on the Kings Road. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren opened up SEX in the 1970s, and Vivienne Westwood’s shop The Worlds End is still there. The Pheasantry has fascinated me ever since I saw photographs by Robert Whitaker at the National Portrait Gallery’s Sixties London exhibition in 1995.

‘I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet’ somehow seemed to be an integral part of what I was thinking about. This shop originally opened in Carnaby Street in 1966 another branch, ‘I was Lord Kitchener’s Thing’ opened on the Kings Road a couple of years later. According to Peter Blake it was while walking past this shop that gave him and Paul McCartney the idea for the Sergeant Pepper album cover.  Reacting to the new modern world being sold in Post War Britain, it sold all sorts of vintage clothes, the type of stuff many people’s grandparents had in their attic. It was simultaneously lauding the old ‘look’, but also wryly laughing at it as being signifier of an old order that was gradually being violently exploded, like all the blitzed parts of London.  But it is as though something is salvaged, like an old artwork pulled from the wreck of derelict forgotten studio.

I was longing to go to London to follow all these ideas up, but I couldn’t afford it. This is something that has got worse. Artists in London have many many opportunities that are lost to artists in the regions due to time and money. To travel at short notice would currently cost £89 return off peak from Thirsk to Kings Cross. It is a unified howl among many artists in the North, and this made me think on.

As the train fare was completely unaffordable, I decided in a fit of frustration and longing to make my own Kings Road. So I travelled up and down it on Google Maps wondering what happened where. The collage I have put together takes you down the Kings Road, with all the old shops and associations placed in the right place in the sequence of images. Each photo was taken from the internet before being heavily edited to fit in with the collage. The piece is entitled ‘I Stole The Kings Road’ because of this. It moves rather quickly, so some of the images seem subliminal, it is after all only a 200 year old history, just a tiny chit in the time of the universe.

I love the idea of being transported through a vista, taking 3D cinema the other way and zooming through the screen.  Past present future all blurred together, helter skelter, as associations, take me there.

One thought on “Theastai, ‘behold’

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