Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Study For A Painting

Study for Our Revels Now Are Ended, or, English Smuts. Charcoal on brown packing paper, 48inches x 19inches

Before the West Pier in Brighton was finally destroyed by arsonists* I used to go and look at it now and then because I love piers and because not only was it the finest pier in Britain it was the finest piece of Victorian seaside architecture bar none.
It also looked magnificent even when it was falling to pieces.
It was designed by Eugenius Birch in 1866 and was finally closed in 1975. I own a plank of decking from the pier: an old girlfriend had a pal who rescued it from a pile washed up on the beach after one of its collapses.
The West Pier has been drawn and painted many times but I have never seen one I much liked. Plus I have always wanted to draw it, even though it has now gone from decomposition to skeleton, as it were.
I hope the following doesn't land me in Pseuds' Corner. I fancied creating some drawings and paintings as a way of taking my mind off the current political situation and to somehow produce a work that says something that writing can’t.
This charcoal study was my first attempt at the West Pier. It felt like a gamble, an adventure in drawing (I haven’t enjoyed drawing something so much in years) and it also felt like taking a reading of the subject.
I dug out some photographs I got a friend to take years ago (I generally hate working from photographs) and felt my way in. I wanted something that had an atmosphere to it; somehow that particular Brighton atmosphere of sunny frivolity and concealed evil; and, in a larger implicit way, the atmosphere of inevitable general decay, of people and all their works.
I want to work towards a painting, perhaps on a larger scale with some figures in the foreground maybe. In a way though, smutty charcoal on cheap packing paper seems to be the way of it, or at least a way into it. My working title is from The Tempest: Our Revels Now Are Ended. But I also like English Smuts, though that is obscure – smuts does play an end of the pier chord, I suppose.
Wonderful set of photographs taken on the decaying pier in 2000, here.

* In Brighton, it is an open secret who was behind the arson attack. I once knew a journalist down there who had the whole story, but he feared for his legs/life. It was all, now I come to think about it, reminiscent of Hale in Brighton Rock.


Jim said...

Nice piece of work, Sir!
I share your fondness for piers; for me they are a powerful metaphor for the irresistible changes that time wreaks on any society. Faded splendour, sorry dissolution, careless and wanton disregard for our own history... not pretty, but sadly apropos.
Even when extensively restored, as at Southwold, there seems to be a fundamental dissonance between their low-tech charm and the "bigger, higher, faster" allure of a modern theme park.

Nostalgia has it's obvious dangers but a little wallowing in halcyon memories of Worthing, Southend and the Southwold of days past is meat and drink to this old 70's hippo!

Blue Eyes said...

Is it for sale?

William Gazy said...

Not at present - only cos I like I having it around - but I suppose I could have my arm twisted at some point...(send offer ideas to williamgazy@gmail.com)
I intend to do a couple more, because there are certain things I want to try.
And thanks for the interest, Blue Eyes.