Thursday, 26 May 2011

From Eileen Gray to Maurice Broomfield with Frillip Moolog in between!

Time is not linear. I have proof!
Sometimes I try to unravel my inspirations. I try to track back but I keep discovering that it is never a simple matter of, “I saw this and so I thought of that”. The sequence of events is usually messy.

Sometimes I look at something, say an old exhibition catalogue, and I ask myself, “What was I doing back then, in that year?” Was my life even orbiting in the same stratosphere or was I still working in an office?

I made Chubby Blue (pictured above) back in 2006. The reason for his colour is completely due to the fact that a central element of this being (sculpture) is a pale blue ceramic soap dish.
I remember thinking about how so many 1950’s American cars had padded upholstered interiors. Padding was everywhere even on their dash boards. I decided to make big tubes of upholstered baby blue vinyl and completely feature on padding and upholstery when creating this Frillip Moolog sculpture.

So, that’s a very direct explanation for the beginnings of Chubby Blue.

Around the same time that I was making Chubby Blue I also became aware of Eileen Gray. I was fascinated by the stories surrounding her most famous architectural design, E1027 (built between 1926-1929).

Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was a talented designer and architect who is now being given the serious recognition that somehow evaded her during her life. She was a woman in a man’s world.

I was fascinated by the story of Le Corbusier being exceedingly jealous of E1027, the perfect seaside hideaway that she had designed. I pictured him swimming in the Mediterranean and gazing up at E1027 consumed with envy and jealousy. Actually, when he died in 1965 it was as the result of a heart attack; a heart attack that he had while swimming in the sea just below E1027.

I don’t know when I first came across this image (see below) but I absolutely love the exotica of the zebra skin rug in this modernist interior. It is not E1027 but actually the interior of Madame Mathieu Levy’s Rue de Lota apartment in Paris. In 1917 Eileen Gray had been commissioned to redesign the interiors and furnishings and the Bibendum Chair (see image below) was designed as part of that project and is now recognised as one of the major design classics of the 20th century.

There is no denying the strong visual similarities between Chubby Blue and the Bibendum Chair. I guess I must have been aware of the Bibendum chair but it certainly wasn't at the top of my consciousness and I certainly didn't come across this photograph until after I had completed Chubby Blue (honest).

My sketchbooks make references to padded American car interiors, even hot water tank lagging jackets. I made a connection in my mind from padded car interiors to The Michelin Man. (The company mascot for the Michelin tyre company.) Again in my mind he was a sort of blue colour but actually that was simply in my mind (he is very definitely white.)

took this next photo of Michelin House in London in July 2006, five months after completing Chubby Blue. That was the first time that I had set eyes on the building!

There is no doubt, simply looking at the form and also the name, Bibendum, that Grey was also inspired by the Michelin mascot when she designed the Bibendum Chair.

There are many images of E1027 online. In particular on the Ouno Design Blog and also the Friends of E1027 website.

Quite honestly I believe that Chubby Blue would look so at home in E1027. If time travel was possible and I was granted an audience with her, I wonder, would Eileen Gray and I hit it off?
So the dramatic story of E1027’s ‘life’ includes the fact that although Le Corbusier never did succeed in owning it he did stamp it with his imprint when he painted eight murals on the walls during a period when Eileen Gray was away (1937-39).

She was outraged and felt that this was a blatant act of vandalism of her creation. She held a grudge against him for the rest of her life and never ever returned to E1027.

During the German occupation of the area during the second world war it is reported that soldiers used the murals for target practice. The house ran into disrepair and was inhabited by squatters. And more drama...its last owner was murdered in it.

There are so many more stories around E1027 but you will have to discover them yourself. But for now go and make yourself a cup of tea sit down and watch this beautiful and haunting 6 minute video (filmed by French journalist Florence Canarelli in November 2010.)

This is a building which has had a thoroughly interesting life, it is a container of many emotions and passions. But really it is in no hurry to reveal itself completely.

I believe that I need to visit it and to experience it myself however as I have already made Chubby Blue could it be possible, I mean if time travel was possible, then perhaps I have already been there?

Like the patina of old furniture the layers of stories relating to a building take years to build up and become a strange psychic ‘force shield’ of a building. Not physical but definitely a ‘part’ of it.

Another building that still haunts me is the wonderful victorian Lucas Electrical Great King Street factory (see picture below). It was the headquarters of the Joseph Lucas automotive parts manufacturing empire. I actually worked there back in 1984 in my first job; graduate trainee management accountant. I so wish that I had taken photos but back in the 80’s we weren’t all walking around with cameras in our pockets and uploading images and videos online. (There was no online then!)

I have no personal visual mementoes of my time there but I do still re-live the sounds, smells and touch of this building in my mind.

It was completely impractical for modern manufacturing as working within a seven storey building completely hindered efficient flow between manufacturing operations.

It was a completely magical building for me; full of idiosyncrasies, rabbit warren like and I really felt as if I was working inside a giant dolls’ house.

Tragically it was demolished back in the late 80’s

These two photo of the Lucas Great King Street factory (taken from the same viewpoint) are from Triple C Motor Accessories website.

More connections are being made.

Currently Chubby Blue is on show within The Public, a building which already is collecting its own blanket of stories.

Obviously I’m exceedingly happy that Graham Peet, the exhibitions manager at The Public, made his own connections.

He was interested in artworks which look like they might have a physical function, chairs for example, and wanted to show Chubby Blue alongside Will Alsop’s bench (which does get sat on) and Tom Dixon’s Pylon chair. Although chair is in it’s name most people would see the Pylon chair as a piece of sculptural design.

Frillip Moolog: Another Place is one of the exhibitions that he has curated which are all under the title of The Art Of Invention. Graham has made his own connections between, manufacturing, industrial photography, through to the functional and then non functional creations of designers and artists respectively.

Graham didn’t know that I had previously worked in manufacturing so I think that my love of industry and the industrial heritage of the West Midlands was a nice surprise for him.

Above: exhibition image from The Art of Invention.
Stan and Chubby Blue, two Frillip Moolog beings, flank the Will Alsop designed bench.

And yet another surprising connection.

A simple visual similarity here between the horizontal padded sausages of Chubby Blue and this quite surreal photograph (see below) by Maurice Broomfield.

Do I need to know what these men are doing? Probably not, but as you know I like some flesh on the bones of my experiences.

Although I don’t know exactly what these men are doing I do know that Maurice Broomfield loved to light his photographs to give the a bit more drama and a sense of glamour. His son, Nick Broomfield, says that he would treat the factories as stage sets and even select the most attractive people to be in shot, whether or not they were the usual ones to perform that particular manufacturing task!

The Public doesn’t go into things by halves so while Frillip Moolog: Another Place and selected works from the Frank Cohen Collection are shown upstairs, together under the umbrella title of The Art Of Invention, downstairs there is, In the Best Light, a retrospective of Maurice Broomfield’s industrial photography from the 1950’s and 60’s.

As Tim Meehan said in his article (Times Newspaper 16th April 2011),"It takes a special eye to make arduous industrial processes and perilous manual labour seem sexy, epic and mysterious".

Nylon Stocking Testing Laboratory, Pontypool, Wales 1957. Sexy? ...oh yes!
(Note this is my photo of the photograph on exhibition at The Public. The pink aura in the image above is a result of the reflection from the pink tinted windows of The Public.)

The Art of Invention and In The Best Light
The Public, West Bromwich, UK B70 7PG
Exhibitions continue until 26th June 2011.

Wed 8th Jun 2011 6-9pm


1 comment :

frillip moolog: said...

2014 update
There is an excellent BBC Radio 3 programme about Eileen Gray. It is definitely worth a listen but is only available until 2.03.14
as you will hear from the programme E1027 is being restored and it is planned that it will be opened to the public later in 2014.