Life is always very interesting for an artist I find.
I never know what I might be painting next or who might come to view my paintings in the studio or where I might be going to visit exhibitions, give talks or demonstrations.
There is also added an excitement when I receive a commission, with a brief that challenges me to work in a new direction and especially when it involves new materials.
One such recent commission was awarded me from Greater Manchester West NHS Foundation Trust for their new build at Prestwich Hospital.
Superbly designed by Gilling Dodd architects, their two projects were a Recovery Academy called ‘The Curve’ and a Low Secure Unit called ‘The Lowry Unit’.
Each project involved my creating paintings for conference suites, mural sized wall art for a number of specialised rooms and public areas, and art works designed and made with service user involvement.
By far the most exciting and incidentally challenging pieces were two large relief panels, one for each of the buildings.
Asked to create a major and engaging work for the entrance foyer of ‘The Curve’ which would be appreciated by staff, visitors and service users alike, I worked on the theme of ‘recovery’ and decided to make drawings of a person who would, by posture, reflect stylised stages on the route to recovery.
After having had approval for the idea, I considered various options for materials, finally deciding to use Perspex. This proved to be as much a technical challenge as a design project, never having used this material, nor indeed having created a relief sculpture before, but it proved to be the perfect material. It brought colour to the design and the shapes used were simple cut out pieces which retained a simplicity of form and therefore an easy to interpret message for the viewer. I also used LED lighting behind the panel of figures which is never switched off and so the colour changes in a slow smooth sequence thereby seeming to animate the figures.
At 1.5mts high x 2mts wide this panel is certainly engaging and has received much favourable comment since its installation.
Following the success in using Perspex for the ‘Recovery’ piece, I was next commissioned to create another relief panel, this time it was to be sited on an exterior wall in The Lowry Unit. This was in an area with seating and garden to be used as a quiet recreational space at the entrance to the building.
The subject matter for this 2mtr x 6mtr wall was pretty obvious but once again simplification of the image was important for it to have the same engaging and contemplative impact. Drawing directly from Lowry’s own paintings and choosing flat colour effects, I created a Lowry Wall of interacting figures which were printed onto clear Perspex with five of the figures cut out and slightly raised. Behind each of those five figures I again used LED lighting which changes colour sequentially and as you might imagine, it is very absorbing to watch during the day but as the day darkens so the colour is enhanced and the whole wall becomes even more engaging.
I am grateful to Greater Manchester West NHS Foundation Trust for the commission, for their enthusiasm and for the trust they showed throughout the project that all would work well. It has, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the project so much, allowing me as it has, to venture into new areas of creative art. I look forward to more opportunities to work with Perspex in the future.
Thanks also to GJPlastics for their technical advice and in cutting and assembling the sculptures and to Ruaux Photography for producing the digital images from my drawings.
It is also very thrilling to have had images of the sculptures featured in a number of technical publications associated with Perspex including Perspex Distribution Ltd, Lucite International and the magazine Digital Printer.