Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Arthur Dooley-Remember Him and Save His Studio.

The highlight of 2008, in Liverpool as European Capital of Culture, for me was not a pseudo Klimt expo or a giant spider, but an exhibition staged in the Liverpool Academy. This did not advertise Vienna; it bowed its head with a retrospective of one of Liverpool’s characters, by people who knew him. Someone who dripped passion, a self taught man, who proclaimed himself as an Irish Liverpudlian and was proud of his tough working class background. He made the sculpture Four Lads Who Shook The World in Mathew Street. He was, Arthur Dooley, and how I admire him.
I had sold several pieces of his work and I thought some of it was bad. But one was an amazing bronze Bull on a marble base AD75, that I never was able to part with. Sometimes it’s not about money. This was a journey into the thinking mans mind. An antagonist who took on the establishment and proved he was cleverer than them. For which he was revered, and shunned.
Born in Liverpool in 1929, Dooley worked as a welder on the Ark Royal.
He was working, tirelessly, around Liverpool, right up until his death in 1994. He was a boxer and once came to blows in the Everyman with Arthur Ballard an art teacher who had taught Stewart Sutcliffe.
He created numerous religious figures in polished bronze using unorthodox techniques and unusual interpretations. The Black Christ on Princes Avenue being one, that went down like a lead balloon.
He buttonholed Hesseltine after the Toxteth Riots and pleaded with him “Don’t let them knock down the Albert Dock”.
His first sculpture was made in an army prison in Egypt where he served a sentence for going AWOL. Conflicting reports, one saying he tried to join the PLO.
Upon his unceremonious return from the army, he joined a drawing class at the Whitechapel gallery in London.
He was then employed as a janitor. His job included clearing up after the sculptors and setting up materials, then he began to make his own work...using scraps of metal left over.
His lead cast piece of a crucified Jesus received a good response around the college. From these humble beginnings, in 1962 he exhibited at St Martins Gallery, a stones throw from the college where he had worked. Cast a bronze bull for London weekend’s south bank building. He met the great art critic Greenberg and made several appearances on the "Tonight" programme. I saw an interview he made with Bill Shankly. He dubbed the new Cathedral Paddy’s Wigwam. He was featured on This is Your Life.
When Henry Moore, overworked turned down the Stations of the Cross at the Benedictine Community of Ampleforth Monastery Dooley took up the commission.
Later he would say the shipyard was really my art school.

Deeply concerned about social problems of his day. He was a member of the communist party. He was always an outspoken and immensely religious letting the materials he worked with speak. His workshop in Seel Street is intact. It needs preserving.

Arthur Called this sculpture THE TOWN PLANNER and I have to say it has a resemblence to the current planning officer the Riechmarshal Nigel Lee, who has done more damage than the Luftwaffe.

This is his studio almost intact at 34-36 Seel Street he was a active member of the Liverpool Academy. He campaigned to have the right for Liverpool artists to show their wares outside the Bluecoat. He is slowly being recognised as an important man active in town planning not afraid to have his say.
Remember Him.

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