Atelier 88

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Ghosts of the Past-Atelier 88 Visit London

Ghosts of the Past, looking back, seeing the work of old friends, revisiting my old manor.

Last week we made a brief visit to London, staying in the Walworth Road and East Street (East Lane as we called it) where I spent 12 happy years. It was also raining, sleeting, and cold over the few days we were in London. Most people said ‘I bet you miss the sunshine’, they were surprised when I said it was snowing at home when we left.


 When we return to the UK it is important to plan our time well, demands to see family, friends and visit exhibitions can be exhausting.

Lottie’s plan was to see her daughters and her son. We stayed at The Noodles, which was fantastic. I was excited to see my daughter and spend an evening with her and Ollie.

But I was on a mission, tracking ghosts of the past, I also wanted to pursue a particular itinerary of the visual.

Me back in the day from the 1985 RCA Catalogue (not a grey hair in sight lol de lol)

Since my early days in London at the Royal College of Art, I have been fascinated by the Assyrian friezes in the British Museum. Stunning pieces and a chance encounter in the Assyrian display with an archeologist from Iraq made it all the more sweet. He had worked on some of the sites that these works came from. What interested me was the way they present relief images in a graphic language, concise drawn images of the lion hunt is a particular favourite of mine and an influence on me as a graphic artist.

For those interested in visiting this is from the British Museum website.

Assyria (Room 10)

Assyria: Lion Hunts (Room 10a)

645 – 635 BC

In ancient Assyria, lion-hunting was considered the sport of kings, symbolic of the ruling monarch’s duty to protect and fight for his people. The sculpted reliefs in Room 10a illustrate the sporting exploits of the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (668-631 BC) and were created for his palace at Nineveh (in modern-day northern Iraq).

The hunt scenes, full of tension and realism, rank among the finest achievements of Assyrian Art. They depict the release of the lions, the ensuing chase and subsequent killing.

As I said I was on a mission. Next up was the Natural History Museum in South Kensington opposite the site of the Royal College of Art Exhibition Road building adjoining the VandA, a place I knew well from my days studying Printmaking there.

I was interested to see the ichthyosaur, this set of fossils from the Jurassic era lead to stories of Sea Dragons, again this programme by David Attenborough will be worth a watch Ichthyosaurs (Greek for “fish lizard” – ιχθυς or ichthys meaning “fish” and σαυρος or sauros meaning “lizard”)  In 1811, in Lyme Regis, along what is now called the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, the first complete ichthyosaur skull was found.

Courtesy of BBC impression of a living Ichthyosaur

For me it was interesting because it was another kind of frieze, the fossil in stone had the look of a relief, a graphic image.

Of course no trip to the Natural History Museum would be complete without visiting the Dodo. A Dodo was Lewis Carrol’s parody of himself in Alice.


Dodo’s by Pedro

My final visit of the trip was to the Tate Britains Prints and Drawings study room.,

If you do not know about it check it out. It houses prints and drawings from many of the best British artists living and gone before. Its open Monday to Friday 10.30–16.30 and you have to make an appointment so they can organise the works you wish to see.

I wanted to look at the prints of an old tutor of mine from RCA days, a lovely man and good heart called (Sir)Terry Frost (1915–2003).

Red and Black on Green 1968. Screenprint on paper. Image: 559 x 765 mm. Tate

ACQUISITION Presented by Rose and Chris Prater through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975

Terry was a prisoner of war at Stalag 383 in Bavaria, where he met Adrian Heath who encouraged him to paint. He moved to St Ives around the early 50’s as Barbara Hepworth’s assistant.

For me there are other connections, such as Leeds (My old BA Polytechnic was Leeds Poly).

Terry was appointed on the recommendation of Herbert Read as the Gregory Fellow on Painting (1954-1956) at the University of Leeds. Teaching at Leeds School of Art. Here he meet another personal connection, an old colleague from my Kent Institute of Art and Design day’s Stass Paraskos.

 Terry Loved to talk and told us many great stories such as ‘Through Blacks’ 1969 was made as a Family Christmas party game, with his kids painting as many different colours of black, he said it amused him that the Tate bought a Christmas game. Another was when he entered the army the Commanding Officer called him to his office and said, ‘Frost I hear you’re a painter’, excited that this might be some kind of War Artist gig, Terry enthusiastically said, ‘yes Sir’, the CO then said ‘good, see that bucket of white paint, take a brush and paint the stones around the paths in the compound, that will be all!!!’. Who knows if these are true but as students we lapped them up with relish.

My appointment was at 3.00 so I had a look around the exhibits but I first met up with an old friend who works at the Tate, Pierre.

The Study Room is Level 2 in the Clore Gallery, that has the Turners and an exhibition at present of artists influenced by William Blake. The ladies in the study room had laid out many of Terry’s works and I spent a luxurious hour and half visiting the work of this old friend.

Visiting London is such a treat now because I seem to do more than when I lived there.

Atelier 88 will soon be publishing an online magazine so keep watching.

Saludos Pedro y Lottie

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