We travelled as a family every three years back to these shores to visit and holiday with the wider family; generally touring Britain – seasides, castles etcetera – and thus I glimpsed this world. Likened to paintings I frequently say that I grew up in Hockney’s LA period; swimming pools, tennis courts, strange trees and everything made vivid under the African sun. I was born in Rhodesia, and lived in Malawi for sixteen years.
My parents childhood world was happiness in endless rows of brick terraced houses, playgrounds with terrifying amusement rides on broken brick surfaces, cobbled, echoing ‘entries’, slabs for gardens and the best that could be made of a working class life.
I went to Art College when I reached these shores to live, aged sixteen, moving (downriver!) on to Trent Polytechic in Nottingham. Whilst teachers and lecturers alike tried to eke the African influences out of me, my inspiration was lost to these dark streets; these repetititious, functional houses, the wonder and mystery of post-industry. There were no ‘upstairs houses’, and no gable ends where I grew up but I have a love and fascination of what they mean.
The second vital source of inspiration is the backdrop to these spaces and houses; industry.
Having travelled Britain extensively I marvel at this, the biggest subsequent social revolution of mankind and it’s imposition on the British landscape. I’m old enough to have dipped my toe into the experience of manual labour within the ceramic industry of Stoke-On-Trent. Thus far the majority of my work pays homage to it. I’ve always been a listener and I tell the stories of those who recall harder tales than mine, that I can relate to my experiences – and stories which are rapidly becoming legend as new generations leave these stories behind. My work isn’t nostalgic, there’s an enormous architectural legacy – primarily of that fascination called terraced housing. The houses of the working people.
I’ve now spent the best part of ten years scratching away at this subject to try and expose the character of what has now been ‘the somewhere’ in my life for now the greater part of my lifetime, and it’s a bottomless topic.