Friday, 30 May 2014

Sean Rice-Sculptor.

 Sean Brian Rice-A Sculptor And A Very Clever Man.

It is a rare occasion, that you see a Sean Rice sculpture, that is unless you are in The Metropolitan Cathedral up on Mount Pleasant, that Sean Rice's contemporary Arthur Dooley christened Paddy's Wigwam.
 Inside there are works by him. The Stations of the Cross.
I don't think of him as religious as Dooley in fact his work seems to be made up of more of devils and horned demons not angels. But he was commissioned by the architect Gibbard to decorate the interior with contemporary but religious relief.
Mr Rice has a way of expressing himself that at times may not be pretty, but always workmanlike and craftsmanlike.
His work always has a quality of manufacture, that astounds me. He was able to take metals mainly copper and bronze and transform it into movement with heat and the hammer by which he forged.
In doing so he also forged his reputation amongst people who know how difficult it is to acquire his skills, those that know are those who understand that these skills cannot be acquired overnight.
Instead it takes years, decades maybe to be able to make and cut a flat piece of copper and bend it, so as it looks like the lightest length of drape or ribbon billowing in the breeze. He made tough tensile metal flow like water. making an art of showing the flow of a welders torch as decoration. He poured in as much oxygen into that flaming torch as into his fertile mind that dreamt up the landscape where he frequented.
In reality he worked from a workshop so far removed from the glamour of his creations that, must have been, at time resembling the hobs of hell with fire and brimstone curdling in the red hot air.
This fiery world was where he was at home.
He loved the open air and his motorbike, going off on long journeys to the continent.
No-one has his style even though some foolish writers of the recent past lump him and Arthur Dooley together.
Dooley's sculpture was in another league, four levels below that of Sean Rice. Where most of Dooley's work is lumpen and flat lacking movement The work of Sean Rice rides.
They should not be viewed in tandem. They are chalk and cheese and I would prefer Cheddar.

So if you have a piece of work by Mr Sean Brian Rice give me a call and let me know how much you want for it.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Wellington Rooms-Liverpool’s Disgrace.

What is the point in letting this historic building rot?
Here is a picture taken in 1989 by Jeremy Hawthorn. It was used on calendar a couple of years past that was published
 by The Nerve.

How can this building be left to rot after a billion pounds of European objective one funding has been sloshing around over recent decades?
The city in talks of regeneration while this building, and many other, lay in a state of degeneration.
It’s easy to miss its fa├žade as you drive along Mount Pleasant.
 The Wellington Rooms in Mount Pleasant were once described as a house of mirth and revelry.
They were erected after funds were raised by public subscription in 1815
Pic as it appeared in NERVE magazine current issue 24 available from News from Nowhere Bold Street Liverpool

An Adaptation of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates of Athens, which was illustrated, in the influential publication, by Stuart and Revelt, entitled Antiquities of Athens.
It had a porch on one side for the setting down of sedan chairs. The Portico was originally open but was found to be draughty and a disfigurement to the original design was made in my opinion, with the blocking up.
A ballroom of some 80ft by 40ft it had a card room and a supper room.
It was thought to have been frequented by the upper classes, as subscription balls, assemblies and occasional fancy dress balls.

How that description conjures up the most remarkable images of Georgian Liverpool.
A Maritime City of tall masts, sundrenched sailors, rope-makers and barrow boys.
The Welly is from at the nucleus of Liverpools upward growth, from humble beginnings, of its gentrification, taking it to the city of its height in the early 20th century.
It is a
descendant of bygone age of wigs and crinoline gowns and candlesticks and taverns.
I grew up with it being known as The Irish Centre in the 70s and 80s, and ignorant of these historic facts relating the building back to the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleons defeat by the then axis powers under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington.

In 2008 I highlighted its plight in a walkabout for the then Daily Post pleading for the then Liberal Democrat council to save it.
There were then ghastly plans put forward to develop it, by sticking a Rubik cube sort of extension on the back.
The plans looked more like a sketch on the back of a jerry-builders ciggy packet than a professionals work; thankfully they were rejected amid controversy.

2008 may have turned the nations perception of my town but being European Capital of Culture was also a curse because it turned into a culture of capital feeding frenzy, where property developers are helped to do the ordinary and the more difficult has to wait to fall down
Nothing has been done to stop the rot, and it is still the same building, only the deterioration seems to have been helped, by the lead on the roof going missing. What state inside to the plasterwork and its Adams style frieze?

On the English Heritage at risk register for as long as I can remember.
It is Grade II* listed.
The area director of EH should be ashamed of the record that Liverpool has for not looking after its Georgiana.
Though asking English Heritage to protect, with this planning department that in my opinion is a law unto itself, is like asking my mouse to look after my cat.
With a ineffectual conservation office we don’t stand a chance.
Now this great city has areas such as Duke Street with its swathes of beautiful simple three storey Georgian terraces that now look alien in their own environment after modern pastiche, or inferior designed student flats have been erected.
So what chance by this council under a Labour council of turning the tide of humiliation to our Georgian stock.
There may be developers crawling over it now. But look at the mess the council made with St Andrews Church on Rodney Street, after it was reported, was offloaded by the city council for a quid to a convicted fraudster.
Yes I know we have to move on but our history is our future.
Look at the restoration of Seymour Terrace; they certainly did a good job there.

Over the road on Hope Street, they throw a £20 million grant at the demolition of the Everyman culling it, with history bleeding out of its walls. They build a replica in its place, whether that will prove successful time will tell. But once you lose your history its lost forever. This is the town that knocked the Cavern Club down.
Next to this historic gem, and with objective one funding an extension was built on Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral built by the architect Gibbard,
The Oscar Niemeyer Basilica rip off, daubed by the effervescent card carrying communist, Arthur Dooley, Paddys Wigwam, while this wonderful little Georgian gem lies there, rotting, a forlorn looking Mausoleum to itself.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Charles Rennie Mackintosh-Did Liverpool Ruin His Career?

It may, or may not be true but it is certain that Liverpool played a substantial part in CRM’s life that was not at all helpful to his future or his esteem.
Picture left Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Right a very similar looking,  Herbert Mcnair
Not many people outside the art world know Charles Rennie Mackintosh had links with Liverpool or that half of the Glasgow Four actually lived there, at 54 Oxford Street.

The principal rooms at 54 Oxford St were published by the Studio magazine in 1901 in a special edition devoted to ‘Modern Domestic Architecture and Decoration’.

Herbert McNair McNair was the head of applied art in Liverpool
His wife taught embroidery and enameling.
Most of the furniture from Oxford Street was in Sudley Art Gallery before it was butchered by Dr David "Fuzzy Felt" Fleming the current Director.
They moved to Liverpool since 1899.
Here is a Mcnair design for a poster.
How they would influence the likes of Cassandra Annie Walker who worked for the Della Robbia Pottery.

The city was moving forward at a brisk pace and there was work to be had, especially for talented artists and tutors.

So important was Liverpool to CRM or so he thought, that he submitted a design for the then proposed Anglican Cathedral in 1902.

He and his wife Margaret would be able to join his soul mates. The four would be re-united perhaps.

We all love Giles Gilbert Scott’s sandstone monument but what would have been the sight that greets all those people who come to the city on easy flights now.

That comes, from all over the world. What if the other Scot, CRM’s design had been chosen.

Would it now be held, in as high regard, as the Barcelona Guadi Cathedral?

We will never know.
Would we have a structure that went way above the usual realm of architecture, something CRM, as with the Glasgow School of Art, was as capable of creating.
Such was the inner spirit of a man who could capture the spirit of an age.
Alas it was thought to play a bit safer with a more traditional design.

Mackintosh did not submit an outlandish design but for sure he would have changed it as the project went on.

Charles Reilly, later to be made a knight of the realm, who was an engineer, also submitted a design. Reilly defied the Gothic brief and submitted a classical one.
He would be appointed Roscoe Professor of Architecture in 1902.
F.M Simpson was his predecessor.
Augustus John had left the city and The Art Sheds were swept away along with its teachings of applied arts. McNair briefly taught at the Sandon Studios.

Reilly inherited a regime that was looking to the Ruskin ideals of the Gothic.

Ruskin had condemned the Renaissance and said Italian classicism was not correct styling for our nation. Even though it had long been the chosen method of build.

Waterhouse was the darling architect. Two years after his Lime Street building was erected it was covered in soot from the station trains.

Reilly thought the 19th century building of the picturesque had replaced clear thinking with sentimentality. Though he built a block of cottages, the only executed commission for Lever at 15-27 Lower Road, Port Sunlight.

They were almost Regency and were criticized because the veranda blocked out light to the lower floors. Lever himself considered demolishing them.

Reilly rejected Art Nouveau and its derivatives. But what did he build?
 America was showing the way forward.
Louis Sullivan and his pupils rebuilt Chicago and thoughts were being given to the high-rise city block style.

Mackintosh had a mixed reaction, when opened, to the now world acclaimed Glasgow School of Art.

When he started it was at the cutting edge and when he had finished construction it was labelled out of date and old fashioned.

The students seemed to hate it. Fashions were changing.

We do see the change in Mackintosh designs over the years, some of his shapes become geometric and angular almost anticipating the modern style that was later phrased as Art Deco after the 1925 Exhibition of Art Decoratif in Paris.

It was obvious that he was misunderstood by a lot of his peers. Well how were they to know that his inspiration would help mould designs by Joseph Maria Olbrich and his colleagues at the Vienna Secessionist, into world changing principles of design that would metamorphose into the Weimar Werkstatte that in turn, would influence the Bauhaus?

And we wouldn’t let him build a cathedral.

Sir Charles Reilly who would later travel with Lutyens through India, was one of the founding fathers of the first school of Urban design in the country here in Liverpool, and no sooner had he got power, he sacked McNair.

Mackintosh in 1927 called him “A bombastic second rate professor”.

Reilly had a new style of Beaux Arts. He wanted to make the city the Athens of the North.

Ironic, or even Ionic that Mackintosh Architecture, in Glasgow, is now more famous than that of Alexander “Greek” Thomson who built monumental, where they also wanted to become the Athens of the, slightly further, North.

Gavin Stamps who taught in Glasgow, says in his lecture of 9th November 1996 at the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool. “Thomson was the main ambassador of a revival style that never went away”
He went on to say that Glasgow has a grid pattern that links it closely with the style adopted in America.

Mackintosh would later go on to call Reilly, in a letter found in a letter, he said that “the American system was wrong and that Reilly did not even reproduce it effectively”, such was his hatred for the man who disliked Arts and Crafts yet wanted to be part of Lutyens.

Even though Lutyens early style was built around the same rustic ideals as that of Voysey albeit with a slightly differing tinge.

Lutyens was given a crack at the Catholic Cathedral though he only built the Crypt. Oh how I hated it, when they started the building of what Arthur Dooley christened Paddy’s Wigwam in the 70’s.

It was a whole scale shift away from the basic principles of the craftsman that previous generations had endeavoured to uphold.

It leaked like siv, like a giant colander. They tried to be different.

Maybe they too should have played safe with a recognised design, and built it out of sandstone, but it was done on the cheap.
I don’t hate it and there are a lot of people who now like it.
There is no accounting for taste. Jonathan Glancey called it a space rocket.

So what would a Mackintosh cathedral have been like?
What would have happened if Charles Rennie had been living here in Liverpool?

Would the ego of Charles Reilly with his rich patronage by the likes of Lord Leverhume the soap magnate have allowed it?

There is no doubt that some of his pupils such as Herbert Rowse left monuments for the future, in Reilly’s favoured Beaux Arts style. He later went on to adopt a Dutch style for the Philharmonic Hall.

But Mackintosh could create something special out of a couple of lengths of 3 by 2 joined together and made into a cabinet.

He had something that appeared unique with the enrichment of his designs with his Celtic roots and the ability to extract an emotion from a dead piece of timber, from a plank, and make it come alive.

There is something of the primeval about some of his designs that tap into the inner core.

Imagine him being let loose on a whole Cathedral.

However it was not to be and the city did not have a lasting legacy that would echo the links between the two great cities of Glasgow and Liverpool and their Celtic roots. The two cities at times, appear to be hued out of the same seam of sandstone that backbones the country. That gives them strength and resilience as if made from girders, that tackles adversity head on.

But how many towns are envious that Mackintosh was not one of theirs and never built for them. I must say I have a long lasting feeling that if we had a Cathedral that straddles the highest point on the Mersey by the Big Mac we would all be better off.

Was this the turning point for a career that could have taken him stratospheric to one of the greats and not just a house builder up north that, still, no matter where you look at it from, he inspired the whole of Europe.

I could ask a pertinent question.
 What did Charles Reilly build?
Hunterian collection