English, Rose (5 of 13).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2005-12-08, 2006-02-03, 2006-04-11, 2006-05-08, 2006-06-05,

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home/studio, London

  • Interviewees

    English, Rose, 1950- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: [1:11:47] Work which was expected at Bristol; sharp division between painting and sculpture; formal exercises; RE’s response. Learnt more from two students who were in 2nd and 3rd year. Connection with Bristol Old Vic; drama club; RE designed décor for ‘An Italian Straw Hat’. RE’s work; miniature sculptures; outside of what was expected. First term exercises. 2nd term; Boucher’s ‘Miss O’Murphy’ - RE’s work in relation to it; using clay; felt pleased with the work; moving from decoration to ideas. Inspired by other students’ work; eg. student who made sculptures from found toys; reminded RE of Gibraltar cribs/miniature landscapes; different from then-popular Lichtenstein, Pop Art; also another student’s work focussing on Bristol landscape. Art history; Renaissance; ancient Egypt; long gap to Paul Klee, Kandinsky; applied arts; discovery of costumes from Ballet Russes production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’; RE went to Sothebys sale. Didn’t separate Picasso from Bakst costumes etc; didn’t attach more reverence to painting than any other form. Film; Apollinaire; went to Bristol Arts Lab; but became more interested in film later. RE learnt violin at boarding school; liked to impress teacher Mr Solomons. Being on stage at Farnham; not interested in world of plays; starting point of moving toward making shows. [19:52] Bristol difficulties; didn’t talk to EG whilst dealing with it; close relationship with SE. SE’s appearance; personality; conversation; periods of making art and bringing up two daughters. Describes SE’s work; also knowledgeable naturalist; as student met Maria Reich documenting Nazca Lines in Peru. SE hasn’t made a living through art; usually self-financed projects; reached public via photographs in newspapers, television; ‘Tiger Rug’ commission for Salisbury Festival. [Pause in recording 29:51] RE’s (age 17) first boyfriend Anthony Browning [AB]; met at a friend’s party in South Kensington. AB’s appearance; family background in Jamaica; studying economics. AB left his course and moved in with RE in Bristol. Saving wages; travelled together to India. RE returned to go to Leeds; AB continued travelling. Splitting up with AB. RE had no interest in marriage. Living together in St Pauls area of Bristol. Weekends spent driving in Wales; visiting friends, MM. Living with partner; AB’s moods; working out what he wanted to do; interested in starting theatre company; personality; at ease travelling. RE’s experience of their trip; hitched from London to Istanbul; Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (Benares), Nepal, Delhi and Kashmir; RE’s decision to return to Britain. Travel in previous summers; eg. Kibbutz in Israel, went travelling in West Bank and Occupied Territories; another summer, stayed with family friends in Istanbul. Backpacker lifestyle. Impact of travel; kept diary, drawings, photographs. [45:12] Work made on travels; also Hayward gallery exhibition ‘Tantra’ - influenced RE’s work at Leeds. Made connection between rituals seen in India and, from childhood, ceremonials in Spain. Arriving at Leeds; felt lost; lodged first with friend of SE, Talal Kanafani and girlfriend Mel. Art school; feeling daunted in open plan space; tutor Willy Tirr’s advice. Making work in ceramics dept. Discovered Kirkgate Market and night clubs. Working overnight at art school; describes daily routine. Art school building (Polytechnic); now Leeds Metropolitan University. Atmosphere at night; mould-making, casting porcelain slip, painting enamels. Solitary; book-ended by gossip over tea. Weekends socialising; dancing all night; International Club; reggae and blues. Group of friends via sharing house with Clare and Terry Charnley and baby Ruby; and in upstairs flat, Jo Moorhouse, boyfriend Glen and baby JoJo; also friends Jo Bartholomew and Leslie Howling. First heard reggae in Bristol; AB telling her about Jamaica. Leeds; RE made outfits; description. Also made pieces to sell; describes wooden badges/breastplates; sold them via Mr Freedom - heard Marc Bolan bought one, also Portobello Market and Biba. RE’s risqué outfit to David Bowie concert. Taking badges to Mr Freedom; selling at Portobello; early success at this; lost interest in taking it further. [1:01:50] Leeds course; no structure, no pre-determined idea of ‘fine art’; tutors; technical support; freedom - suited some students, not others. Being self-motivated. Personal tutor John Fox; started company called ‘Welfare State’. Jeff Nuttall; poet/performer, started ‘The People Show’. Kate Westbrook, painter; collaborated with musician husband Mike Westbrook. Sandy Weatherstone [SW], psychologist; character. Ceramics technicians. Student show at ICA at end of 2nd year; organised by SW; ‘Leeds Kids Rule OK’; RE showed ceramics and marzipan sculptures; sold work and bought first camera. Students Nick Showell [NS] and Mark Baldwin; Lindsay Kemp [LK] came to their performance. MB went on to work with LK. RE met LK later when living in London. Seeing students working across media; eg. making a show; presented in the school’s gallery space. NS and MB’s shows. Students would collaborate; eg. RE performed in others’ shows, directed own show. RE’s first awareness of performance; talked about ‘shows’ rather than performance or live art. Felt like they were inventing it; learnt about Fluxus etc afterward. Yorkshire art scene; artists and tutors; RE feels grateful to have been part of it. [1:11:47]

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