I was born in Penang, Malaya.
My father was a rubber planter and my first six years were spent on a plantation in Kedah – see Movies page: The Henrietta Estate Album. The bungalow seen at the begining of the film, though remodelled after the War, was our home. In 2006 only the Tamil Temple where we watched the fire walking remains; the house and garden had been bulldozered to make way for a new housing developement.
1962; the family returned to England and I was off to boarding school.
1974 - 78 attended art college in London: The Slade School – a place of some history and reputation, and though I was a serious student I can’t say I was taught anything – aside from printmaking, that was of subsequent value.
During the decade following graduation – along with works in watercolour, collage and latterly etched drawings on sheet metal, I made a succession of multiples* which as a body of work represent a unique record of my endeavours to find a place in the Fine Art world.
Indeed with some success: with exhibitions in London, New York, Tokyo, Zurich – which may sound quite glamourous but in fact even with 3 or 4 part time jobs including teaching night school, working at the Camden Plaza Cinema; I was always more or less broke.
Still there is another, more fundamental, reason my career in Fine Art proved terminal: by the mid '80s I had began to lose my way – I think you can see this in sample book. There was no escaping it – the world of Fine Art is predicated on what is in and what is not in; and my boxes and books and watercolours were never going to get into Art Forum magazine.
Around mid '80s my work changed course towards the more then current minimalist mode; it wasn't long till I decided to quit Fine Art altogether in 1988.
* A complete set of these 9 multiples are now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford – see News page: Bodleian Collection section.
and what came next
Late 1988 I started a decorating business doing specialist finishes** for interiors. I worked with / for a number of interesting architects / designers such as: John Pawson – including the first Calvin Klein shop in Aoyama, Tokyo '94; Claudio Silvestrin – there's a menswear shop in Graz, Austria which appears to be still there nearly 30 years on; Anouska Hempel – her home and hotels; John Stefanidis, Bernhard Blauel, Tom Croft.
The work took me elsewhere abroad too: to Paris for Anouska Hempel's Louis Vuitton store on the Left Bank, to Barbados, to Amman where there are bas relief friezes I made for Queen Rania of Jordan's dressing room.
Nevertheless, though I was so pleased to be working in a world where values were clearly defined (unlike my experiences in the world of Fine Art), I found myself taking up the paint brush again – a respite from the egos and arguments of the design office, of the building site.
And so between contracts, commencing in 2000, I started painting in watercolour.
Strangely it was the figure, mostly the female, that was my subject – as you can see from the Bodleian collection of multiples this had not really featured in my previous work. Incidentally the first painting was from photos I took in the cast galleries belonging to the Ashmolean Museum . . . you could say I got restarted in Oxford.
Even allowing for the stop/starting of working around commercial projects, I work very slowly; still over the years the paintings began to accumulate. In 2007 Jonathan Cooper Gallery in London exhibited Eleven Watercolours***. He has periodically shown my work since including a solo show again in 2011: Best Foreign Language***.
Another ending came in 2012 when, after a particularly difficult contract in the Middle East – which nearly cost me my home, I decided it was time to quit the world of contracting.
I am now back to being a full time artist.
** Also Bodleian Library: Supporting material – 3 brochures: specialist finishes.
Predominantly I was making bespoke pigmented and aggregated wall plasters but also worked in sheet metals, glass and gilding.
*** Also Bodleian Library: – Exhibition catalogues for Eleven Watercolours, Best Foreign Language.
Oxford. September 2020