The Making of
I am proud to present Host, a new public art installation running under the platforms at Guildford Train Station. The digital collage on aluminium references places, people and events of the town, past and present, celebrating its unique heritage, successful industry and diverse culture. Host was commissioned and funded by a partnership formed of: Network Rail, Cross Country Trains, Great Western Railway, Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, South Western Railway, The Community Rail Network, The Arts Society, The Arts Society Guildford and Guildford Arts.
Realising early on that the installation will always be viewed on the move in passing and probably at pace, my aim for the composition was to lead you from one reference to another from both directions. I wanted to include or continue a rhythm from the trains and to make some of the references discoverable over time; the idea of the more you look the more you see each time you pass appealed.
As a printmaker I wanted the content to be made from original handmade prints as well as paintings, I didn’t want anything to be computer generated. The computer was my canvas to collage on and I made all the work by hand in the studio. To begin with I imagined that I would be able to work quite small, perhaps on A3 plates for each of the drawings and scale them up on the computer for the final large format size but I didn’t like seeing the beautiful collagraphed lines enlarged. The art work had to be made almost to scale to keep the integrity of the mark.
I love a bit of research for a project and started work for the installation in September during the Guildford Walkfest. The partnership had asked for two 5metre long murals to give Guildford Train Station a sense of place and identity so the organised walks, talks and events really helped gather content for the work. I discovered my theme during this time – abundance! Guildford has a rich and diverse past and present and after talking to the experts I wanted to make a reference to as much as time, space and composition would allow.
Guildford Cathedral, Stag Hill, The Surrey University Arboretum, The Duke of Kent Building, The Golden Angel, Physical Energy – George Watts, The River Wey, St Mary’s Church, The Lido, G Live, Golden Sand, Golden Flowers, The Crypt, Guildford Clock, Tunsgate Arches, Surrey Space Center, Lewis Carroll, Early Royal presence, Guildford Castle, John Russell, Alan Turing, Flavia Cacace, The Guildford Dragon, The Friary, The Spectrum, Guildford Flames, Guildford Phoenix, Yvonne Arnaud, The Dennis Brothers, Guildford Bridge, Pewley Downs, Semaphore House, The Guildford Mint, George Abbot, Surrey Hills, the video gaming history in Guildford and of course the railway.
I had several starting points, I wanted reference to the Golden Angel weathervane by sculptor Alan Collins (1928 - 2016) from the top of Guildford Cathedral pointing the way through the first 5 metre panel with reference to George Watts (1817 - 1904) sculpture - Physical Energy, gazing back at the other end and to somehow fit many references to other Guildford features in between.
Another starting point for this panel was an idea given to me by the incumbant Master of the George Abbot Hospital. He said he liked to view the hospital from Bright Hill where you could see it in line with the Holy Trinity Church and Guildford Cathedral, and where you can see that they all have the wonderful brick work in common.
So The Golden Angel and Guildford Cathedral is where I started with the art work trying to figure out simple ways of portraying the building and incorporating if possible, some of it's story.
The Guildford Cathedral story is interesting, it is only one of three Church of England Cathedrals built in the twentieth century and is a unique design combining Gothic tradition with construction techniques of it's era by Sir Edward Maufe. Maufe won the architectural competition to design the building in 1933 but building stopped during the Second World War and only began again after a fundraising campaign encouraged over 200,000 ordinary people to buy a brick for 2s 6d (12 1/2p) making the completion of the building possible.
Guildford is the only English Cathedral dedicated to the Holy Spirit and beautiful emblems of doves and flames are visible throughout the building. I am actually in love with this cathedral it is truly worth several visits.
So I used a collagraph technique to print a very simple line to describe the building and some of the features. This is where you draw on a cardboard plate, carve out the top layer of card, ink the whole thing up intaglio (with ink worked in to all the carved lines, scratches and marks below the surface, quite the opposite to relief printmaking) and printed on an etching press. For the Angel I painted and monoprinted using a lot of masking tape, colour and layers. Then another collagraph for the Lily that she holds in her hand, simply cut out to sit on the surface as in a traditional collage.
I really liked the combination once painstakingly scanned in (in pieces) and collaged digitally together and I knew that this is how I would make the many references to Guildford work together as a whole. The trouble was - it was quite labour intensive and that was before my computer started to feel the strain.
This blog is in progress, next is the story about the Surrey Space Center and my visits to Stag Hill and the University Campus coming soon......
When I was thinking about how to give the mural a kind of rhythm I thought I might use trees because the countryside is such a huge part of Guildford. So I was really pleased when I found an article on the Guildford Dragon website about the Arboretum at the Surrey University Campus at Stag Hill. I got in touch with Simon Smith, Horticultural and Landscape Manager and he generously gave me a detailed tour. Simon has worked in the grounds all his working life and his knowledge, history and love of the campus is wonderful. I was inspired and I’ve been back several times for a walk and will again. There are over 300 different kinds of trees and over 1500 trees in total, all beautifully planned and cared for by Simon and his team.
In the end I didn’t use the trees in the way I first envisaged for the artwork but reference to the arboretum and some of the different species of trees is featured in Host.
Earlier I was literally thrilled to visit the Surrey Space Centre and be shown around the fascinating facilities by Professor Craig Underwood. Again, he was involved from near the start so his pride and passion were clear to me and he generously spent hours explaining many things about space and what is going on up there. I was particularly interested in the space debris cleaning projects and one in particular where a cloth or sail is released from a satellite to fold around the junk and drag it to the earth's atmosphere to burn up. They used origami techniques to learn how to meticulously fold the sail small enough for it to work.
The Remove Debris project from the Space Centre inspired a couple of pieces of work for a London exhibition back in October following an exhibition that focused on global changes that I was part of at the Royal Overseas League, SW1.
The reference to the Surrey Space Centre in Host is much simpler for the composition as a whole but I just had to include the origami.
The moon coupled with this part of Host is an important reference in its own right. John Russell RA (1745 – 1806) was born in Guildford and Guildford House has a very good collection of his work. The Guildford Museum also feature his life and work and some reproductions of his beautiful pastel portraits. After some research I was delighted to learn that Russell had a great interest in astronomy and engraved a map of the moon’s surface on two plates that took 20 years to finish. I really wanted to use one of these as my reference to John Russell and the Wellcome Foundation kindly sent me a larger digital file to include.
This blog is in progress, coming next is about industry in Guildford with Guildford Blue Wool, Dennis Brothers and the Video Gaming industry.
Content Blog continued Another of my starting points was to use yellow and indigo in my colour scheme. Yellow because Guildford was known in its early Saxon days as the guilden (golden) ford either because of the golden sands on the banks of the river or because of the golden flowers that grew there.
Blue because of a cloth exported across the world bringing prosperity to Medieval Guildford. The 'Guildford Blue' cloth was made from the wool of local sheep and dyed blue with woad (similar to indigo), that was also locally grown and was the main industry of Guildford until the 17th century.
Host refers to another later major industry after I was introduced to Roger Heard OBE during my research. He was able to tell me all about the
Dennis Brothers John Dennis (1871-1939) and Raymond Dennis (1878-1939) and their motor industry of specialist vehicles like fire engines, buses and dustcarts all made in Guildford. Dennis Brothers Ltd was the towns largest employer during the 20th century and had an entire residential area known as Dennisville for their employees. In fact, the Rodboro Building in town was the first purpose-built motor vehicle factory in England. The Brothers actually made bicycles to begin with, the Speed King! These were made from imported parts and sold from the brothers’ shop back in 1895; you can see one of these bikes in the Guildford Museum. Roger was with Dennis Brothers for 40 years joining them as an engineering apprentice back in 1963 and eventually receiving an OBE for his services to transport. A great personality and a mine of historic information plus a generous soul, Roger lent me a ton of books and slides for my research.
The Brothers actually made bicycles to begin with, the Speed King! These were made from imported parts and sold from the brothers’ shop back in 1895; you can see one of these bikes in the Guildford Museum. Roger was with Dennis Brothers for 40 years joining them as an engineering apprentice back in 1963 and eventually receiving an OBE for his services to transport. A great personality and a mine of historic information plus a generous soul, Roger lent me a ton of books and slides for my research.
During one of my walks I got talking to another resident of Guildford and she alerted me to the video gaming industry here. Who knew that Guildford is known as the Hollywood of video games! I had no idea but since then it has popped up again and again. I soon got in touch with games and immersive tech expert Sam Read who was able to tell me more about the beginning of this Guildford feat and how Peter Molneux and Les Degar founded the video gaming company Bullfrog and invented a whole new genre in this industry; the 'god games', with the still played famous Populous Series. To date, Guildford has around 60 games studios and has developed many more famous games earning its ‘Hollywood’ reputation. I was very excited about including a reference to this in Host.
Content Blog continued
I found this lovely stag design at the cathedral made in brass and set in the floor marking the highest point of Stag Hill on which the cathedral stands.
The design was one of 1500 created for the kneelers (cushions for prayer) by local people.
I used it to inspire a collagraph print for my reference to Stag Hill in Host.
If you would like to learn more about the making of the Guildford Host, please contact The Art Society Guildford for details of an artist talk due to take place April 2023.