THE LION'S SHARE

WORDS & PICTURES by ED KLUZ - www.edkluz.co.uk

THE BROKEN ROAD

The publishers John Murray recently commissioned me to design the jacket and endpapers for Patrick Leigh Fermor’s final book ‘The Broken Road’. The English artist John Craxton (1922 - 2009) produced designs for the first editions of seven of Fermor’s books. Craxton’s bold and playful covers are synonymous with the work of Fermor. This posed a certain design challenge - I had to ensure that the new jacket sat comfortably within the series whilst expressing my own approach. I referenced the colours of the covers ‘Roumeli’ and ‘Mani’. Whereas both of these depict a daytime scene with a sun-like motif in the sky I wanted my design to represent a nocturne. The inspiration for this came from a passage in which Fermor, accompanied by a stray black dog, discovers the ruin of a mosque at night under a bright moon.

AN UNEXPECTED RUIN

Greece is a country of ruins. Successive civilisations stretching back several millennia have left their mark in monumental form. Ancient sites and structures abound. However on a recent trip to a tiny village on the west coast of the Peloponnese something rather more modest caught my eye.

On the four hour coach journey down the west coast from Athens my eyes became accustomed to the general architectural feel of the area. Box-like dwellings made from concrete are the norm in Greece. The threat of earthquakes and to a certain extent convenience has led to it’s use for almost everything. In towns and villages very few old buildings survive. But when they do they are often neglected and in an advanced state of decay. 

As I travelled through the fields outside the village Leventochori one day, I spied something altogether out of the ordinary. Among olive groves and head-high corn fields at the end of a long rough track, which appeared to have once been bordered by an avenue of handsome tall palms now reduced to stumps, sat a castellated folly. Save for the Mediterranean feel of the shutters it would have looked quite at home in the parkland of some English stately pile. At some point in recent times a huge framework of metal beams and girders had been assembled to support a protective roof. The appearance was almost like some elaborate theatre set and somehow accentuated the building’s frailty and age - like an old man huddling from the elements.

Inside the floors had been removed leaving the scars of fireplaces, doorways, stairs and dividing walls. From the basement I looked up to what had been an elegant entrance hall surrounded by half columns. Fragments of plaster painted to resemble green marble flaked from the walls. The two small reception rooms either side of the hall had once had finely decorated ceilings - all that remained were small fragments clinging to the decaying beams. A large cantilevered staircase once occupied a circular space towards the rear of the building. Now only a single step at the bottom remained. 

I imagine the atmosphere is similar to that of the many derelict country houses across Britain in the years following WWII. The vestiges of domestic comfort still in place - doors, windows and shutters still clinging on suggesting an abandonment in the last 30 years or so. 

My host in the village told me that it had been built sometime in the 19th century by a family who’s fortune had been made by exporting raisins. No one knew quite when it had been abandoned. At some point in the 20th century the family decided to leave the house to the State, probably when their fortunes started to dwindle as a result of the rise in dried fruit exports from America. There had been a plan to turn it into a museum but given the economic situation in Greece it is unlikely that this will be happening anytime soon if ever. And in some ways I’m rather pleased this little building will remain in a perfect state of decay until presumably one day it will cease to exist altogether.

THE HAREWOOD EFFIGIES 

I think of great country houses like palimpsests. They contain fragments of their past which underpin the present. A material expression of memory.

Such fragments, and remarkable ones at that, survive in a 15th century church in a wood on the edge of the park at Harewood House in Yorkshire. Six pairs of alabaster effigies dating from 1419 to 1510 lie recumbent. They are regarded as the finest collection of their kind in Europe. They depict the previous occupants of Harewood Castle (now ruinous) and Gawthorpe Hall (demolished in the 1770s when Harewood House was completed). 

The forms of the figures were once highly coloured, but now like spectres their waxy surfaces reflect an odd milky light in the gloom of the church. Over the centuries individuals have etched graffiti into the delicate surfaces. Faces are scarred and pitted as if bearing battle wounds. They are survivors, and in death retain an uncanny sense of life. They are memento mori.

THE DUNMORE PINEAPPLE

The print comes in an edition of 30 and measures 22 x 15cm. The print can be purchased directly from the Scottish Gallery for £125.

I recently created this three colour screen print exclusively for the St Jude’s exhibition ‘Ten Printmakers’ which is being held at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh this July. 

I visited the Dunmore Pineapple with my partner one summer evening. With the warm evening light already on the darkening it felt somehow like we had landed in a corner of Italy. The exotic little building recalled something of the spirit of the famous gardens at Bomarzo in central Italy, with their monumental stone monsters and peculiar pavilions. It was constructed in the late 18th century as a summer house which overlooked a glasshouse in which precious pineapples were gently coaxed by fire-warmed air to grow in this unlikely northern setting. The main house to which the pineapple once belonged now lies as a foreboding ruin at the centre of a forest a little way beyond the walled garden, its atmosphere quite the opposite to this enchanting and playful folly

The exhibition ‘Ten Printmakers’ runs from from the 3rd to the 27th of July 2013. I will be showing a number of new original collages and prints alongside the work of Christopher BrownChloe CheeseLinda GreenPeter GreenJonny HannahMark HearldMichael KirkmanAngie Lewin and Emily Sutton

www.scottish-gallery.co.uk

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM. PART II

One of the treats of visiting an archive is that you are often permitted access behind the scenes, away from the tourists and the ‘tidied up’ version of a place’s history. My visit to Brighton Pavilion today was no exception. 

I met the Keeper, David Beevers, in the entrance hall, whereupon he led me through the grand reception rooms of the Pavilion. He stopped at one point and unhooked the rope barrier to seemingly walk to a doorless corner of the room. He produced a small key and unlocked a hidden door which led to the archive. 

The archive is housed in what was the bathroom of the Prince Regent - a large pool once ran the length of the room which the Victorians removed in the mid 19th century. The room has seen many changes during its lifetime however its most recent and rather forgotten state is wonderful. In the 1950s it became the gift shop and the walls and ceiling were painted by the then resident decorative artist and restorer Roy Bradley. The effect is as if the viewer is sat beneath a trelliswork arbor looking out through an arch towards a lost view of the Old Steine. 

Bradley’s work at the Pavilion between 1946-76 helped to preserve an extraordinary legacy but here he was able to leave a little bit of himself - a bit like writing your name on the back of the Mona Lisa - part of something iconic but essentially out of view. Roy was most certainly here. 

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM. PART I

I have just returned from what I can only describe as a blissful hour spent in the archive of Brighton Pavilion looking through their fascinating collection of Regency wallpapers. A new design for a St Jude’s wallpaper and a chance discovery in our flat last year prompted me to visit.

Whilst renovating our 1820s staircase last summer, we discovered a small scrap of block printed gothic revival wallpaper behind the bannister pad. The fragment is small but densely decorated with spires, pinnacles, niches and columns in maroon, green, red, white, blue and black - it must have made quite an impact when hung on the large expanse of wall in our stairwell. More on this once I’ve done a bit more research.

The tastes and fashions of 19th century Brighton had a huge influence on the development of British design and architecture. What struck me when looking through drawer upon drawer of fragments from the 1820s was how fresh and modern they are - large expanses of verticular black bamboo on a pink background - vigorous flocked leaf forms in daring red. They are surfaces infused with life and movement which would have animated the theatrical spaces of the Pavilion. They also reflect a wider taste for and flourishing of the bold and daring in interior design in the early part of the 19th century. 

In some small way I hope to capture something of the spirit of these papers in my new design, albeit a little quieter.

THE GROTESQUE COSTUMES OF NICHOLAS DE LARMESSIN 

When researching for a project I will often look for early prints. You can’t beat a good copper plate etching - there’s something incredibly pleasing about the quality of the line and tone. Whilst researching 18th century culinary illustration I came across these wonderfully eccentric series of prints by Nicholas De Larmessin II (1638 - 1694). 

Larmessin was a prolific etcher who came from a long line of printmakers who worked in France throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. His series of over 70 prints titled ‘Les Costumes Grotesques et les Métiers’ depict various craftsmen whose clothes and anatomy are made from the objects of their trade. The gardener is depicted with a ceramic planter torso and flower pot cuffs. Various fruits comprise his lower coat and legs whilst he carries the tools of his occupation. In another a furniture dealer is shown with a large ornate table around his waist on which sit all manner of fine objects. He is seemingly made from the wares of his business. 

Each individual poses within a formal garden setting giving the impression that they viewer has happened upon them taking part in some grand fancy dress party. Their spirit of the images captures something of a sense of the 17th century taste for elaborate theatrical displays and parties made popular during the reign of King Louis XVI. 

THE SHOCK OF THE OLD

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of the large drawer which my mother had filled with materials from the art shop she had run for a few years before I was born. I remember finding a small box which contained large coloured crayons, slightly harder than the normal variety and in waxy reds, blacks, golds, bronzes and silvers. It was the remnants of her brass rubbing kit - which had been a popular pursuit in the 1970s. At the back of the drawer was a roll of paper which when unrolled revealed large oddly angular characters picked out in black and white relief. Their bold graphic quality must have made an impact because I’ve loved them ever since. No two brasses are the same as they display the specific achievements, status and tastes of the individuals they commemorate. The simplified forms are animated by bold lines and patterns making them feel like they could almost be early 20th century wood engravings. Although they mark the resting place of the dead they are charged with energy and life.

LIONHEART SHIRT

One of the delights of designing fabric is seeing what kind of life it has once it’s left the confines of the studio. Today I received a message from the brilliant designer Luke Edward Hall who sent me this picture of a shirt he made using my Lionheart fabric for the musician Patrick Wolf for his tour last year. The funny thing is I saw Patrick perform in Brighton last December. His soulful and beautifully wrought songs really hit the spot and since then he’s become a firm favourite to listen to in the studio.

THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF RENA GARDINER

I recently visited the amazing Bridport Old Books in Dorset. The owner Rosie Young, has a fantastic eye for design and illustration. The shelves are lined with unusual and rare editions with beautiful jackets by many of the big names of 20th century British illustration. However on this occasion it was an unknown illustrator which really got me excited. At the back of a cabinet I found two books by Rena Gardiner. The covers of ‘Dorset: The Isle of Purbeck’ (1969) and ‘Dorset: Tarrant To Blandford’ (1970) immediately caught my eye but the highly distinctive style of the illustrations was unfamiliar. I flicked through and at every turn a wonderful representation of a historic building or landscape leapt off the page. I left with both copies under my arm and a determination to find out more about the woman behind the books.

Rena Gardiner (1929 - 1999) studied at the Kingston School of Art in the 1950s during the golden age of post war design and illustration. The early influence of another Kingston alumni John Piper resonates through her illustrations as does the work of John Minton and Kenneth Rowntree. After graduating she became a teacher at a grammar school in Leamington Spa where she produced her first illustrated book ‘Royal Leamington Spa’. In 1954 she moved to Bournemouth to take up a post at a girls school. Five years later Rena was commissioned to produce a vast mural measuring 10 by 30 feet for the vestibule of the new school building. A short time after in 1960 she published her second book ‘Dorset: The South East’. This project set a working template for the remainder of her publications. Each illustration was produced using offset lithography, which involved working directly onto zinc plates and building up the image layer by layer. This was to be the first of her ‘Workshop Press’ books. 

In 1966 she published her first commissioned guidebook for St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle. This led to another commission the following year for a guidebook to Salisbury Cathedral. Over the coming years she self published books on Canterbury, Ely, Norwich and Rochester. This in turn led to a long list of guidebook commissions from the National Trust. 

Rena was an incredibly hard working and dedicated illustrator and book maker. Each book took a year to produce. She printed and bound each copy by hand which makes the books even more precious. She never marketed her work and seemingly went unnoticed by the other big publishing houses of the time. This maybe goes some way to explain why she is so little known. The extraordinary energy and skill of her work shines through and in my opinion she deserves a place alongside her more well known contemporaries. 

SOUTHWELL MINSTER

Just before Christmas I visited Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. With it’s vast flanking towers topped with pyramid like spires it looks like it belongs in a southern French town. Aside from the early English east end, the building is pure Romanesque. Construction began in 1109 and continued until 1150. The interior and exterior are characteristically robust, creating the impression of a religious fortress. The walls are animated with vigorously carved patterns - chevrons, chequerboards, and strange beaked creatures lighten the heaviness. The interior would have been even more of a riot of pattern and colour. The more puritan tastes in church interior decoration of later centuries sanitised the space somewhat. Originally the walls and columns would have been washed with a thin white render upon which even more elaborate patterns would have been painted. It’s almost impossible to imagine exactly what kind of an impact it would have had on the eyes and minds of the early medieval visitor whose daily existence was vastly more humble. It must have been intoxicating to step out of a world of browns and dull greens into a kaleidoscope of colour. 

Number 13 Lewes Road

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On my walk to the studio this morning I came across this beautiful Victorian painted shop sign which had been uncovered by a painter and decorator working on the facade of a new coffee shop. He kindly allowed me to scale the scaffolding to photograph it before he covered it up again with a new sign. I’d love to know who R C Hallett was and what exactly it was they sold at 13 Lewes Road. A brief internet search revealed that an R C HaIlett now sells bicycles in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wonder whether there’s a more interesting story to tell behind this sign? 

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Here’s a recent lino cut depicting Restoration London. Printed at Inkspot Press in Brighton. 20 x 40 cm.

Here’s a recent lino cut depicting Restoration London. Printed at Inkspot Press in Brighton. 20 x 40 cm.

FOUR ENGLISH PROSPECTS

Back in June of this year I created these four very small paper collages of cathedral city prospects for a solo exhibition at Ben Pentreath Ltd in Bloomsbury, London. I’ve always had a thing for cathedral cities. Three years studying in Winchester and a year in York within earshot of the Minster were a treat. These pieces were created using hand coloured paper. I found a stash of old marbled paper in a shop in London which I really wanted to incorporate in them.

From top left clock wise: Canterbury, Norwich, Lincoln, Durham.

ASHES TO ASHES

On June the 16th, 1663 lightening struck the tower of St Michael and All Angels at Withyham, West Sussex. Fire swept through the church, melting the bells in the steeple and incinerating the many ancient monuments to the Earls and Dukes of Dorset and their descendants in the Sackville chapel. Since the 14th century generations of Sackvilles had been brought here from wherever they had died to rest among their kin. The church steward lamented to see 'such fine and stately monuments so suddenly turned to lime and ashes'. Following the fire funds were eventually raised to rebuild the church and family chapel. The new work was completed between 1672 and 1680.

It was in the midst of the rebuilding that tragedy struck. In 1675 whilst in Samur, France, Thomas Sackville the youngest son of the fifth Earl, died aged thirteen. Lord Dorset wrote in a letter to Sir John Bennett of the loss of 'my dear jewell here on earth and now a blessed angel and saint in heaven'. It had been his intention to erect a monument to his late son. Tragically he too would be dead in less that two years. It was left to Lady Dorset to commission a fitting memorial to her late husband and her dead children who numbered thirteen in total.

The Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700) was chosen to create the monument. Cibber had learned his craft in Italy and the Low Countries, eventually arriving in England in 1655. He is best known for his relief panel at the base of the Monument commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666. The commission at Withyham was also to raise a striking memorial in the wake of fire. For a fee of £350 he was requested to create a work that was to be 'substantially rare and artificially performed' within the space of 10 months. Quite astonishingly he met the deadline of the demanding brief. He also succeeded in creating a masterpiece of late 17th century memorial sculpture.

Behind a low wrought iron screen the Duke and Duchess kneel, in silent and eternal grief at either side of the tomb of their son Thomas who lies with a skull in his hand - a symbol of premature death. Around the base of the raised tomb are representations of their twelve other children who also died in youth. The masterful rendering of the figures is astonishing and the effect theatrical and yet it is essentially a representation of private grief. The gazes of the Duke and Duchess are fixed inwards on their lost son who looks up towards the heavens. The chapel in which the monument sits is lofty with a large window yet it seems to be cloaked in darkness even on a bright day. The modern visitor to the church has to locate a light switch in order to illuminate the melancholy tableau - an act which seems to break the profound sense of sanctity surrounding this extraordinary monument. 

Photographs by Ed Kluz