Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tobias and the Angel at Aboyne Lodge

Aboyne Lodge Primary School, St Alban’s

Built by Hertfordshire CC, opened 1950

(Architectural team included David Medd and Mary Crowley)

Tobias and the Angel by Daphne Henrion

Originally located in forecourt, now removed for security reasons to inner courtyard. (photo from current school website). David Medd’s unpublished Personal Account has a 1950 photo (p.48) of the sculpture in its original location.

In a romantic story from the ancient biblical Book of Tobit, Tobias is sent on a mission by his father. A good-for-nothing only interested in dancing, he is offered guidance by a stranger, and taught to pay attention to the world around him, to listen to the songs of the trees, the mountains, the river. After many adventures with a happy ending, the stranger is revealed as the angel Raphael.

It seems an especially apt image for the school’s current ethos. Its website declares that it wants ‘our children to be curious and caring about the world around them’, to achieve ‘in partnership with parents … a positive and enthusiastic attitude to learning … for future success and happiness in the lives of our pupils’.

Daphne Henrion (1917 –2003) attended the Royal Academy Schools in London from 1934 to 1937, and won a Gold Medal and Travelling Scholarship which took her in 1938-40 to France and Italy. During the war she worked for the Ministry of Information and became a close friend of Arthur Koestler. After the war she resumed her art with many exhibitions. In 1949, she was commissioned to make a bronze figure group, Tobias and the Angel, for a primary school in St Albans, and more public sculptures followed.

She remained figurative during the dominance of abstraction and modelled in traditional materials. Her public sculptures have been appreciated for their tender humanity, unpretentiously direct in expression. She described her approach as ‘entirely traditional and not at all intellectual, being a direct expression of my perception of people and situations. I am glad when my work is appreciated by quite ordinary people as well as by my colleagues.’

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Barbara Jones mural 'Adam naming the animals'

The Barbara Jones Mural at Yewlands School, Sheffield (demolished 2009)

The Scottish architect Sir Basil Urwin Spence (1907 - 1976) designed several secondary schools in the 1950s where murals painted by significant artists were integrated into the foyer or public entrance of the schools. At Duncanrig school in Scotland (1956) the mural might have been demolished with the rest of the school had it not been for the presence of a bat’s nest. At Yewlands secondary school in Sheffield, also designed by Spence (1954), a mural by Barbara Mildred Jones (1912-1978) was sited on a wall just outside of the school hall, where children would line up before entering. The school was at the time part of the West Riding Education Authority under Chief Education Officer, Sir Alec Clegg. Jones was already an established and successful artist who specialised in public art and book illustration. She had been commissioned to produce several large murals for the Britain Can Make it exhibition (1946) as well as for the Festival of Britain (1951). The colourful and vibrant mural was a significant feature of the building for some decades but at a certain time, we do not know precisely when or by whom, a decision was made to remove it by concealing it with plasterboard. Hidden from view, the mural stood blind for three decades while schooling continued at the site until in 2008 an opportunity came to rebuild the school entirely; a process involving the destruction of the original school building. During the process of demolition a memory of the mural emerged - an ex school goveneor recalled its past presence in the school - which led to it being uncovered and an unsuccessful campaign to have it preserved. It was demolished along with the Basil Spence school to make way for a new building on site.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Susan Lawrence Primary School, Poplar

The school, built in 1949-51, was designed by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall, as part of the 'Live Architecture' exhibition of the Festival of Britain. It was called at the time the Ricardo Street Primary and Nursery School.
The lobby's interior was clad with ceramic tiles. Their abstract white and yellow pattern covers the entire wall facing the entrance, providing a colorful counterfoil to the diagonal staircase which appears to be suspended in space.
The ceramics were designed by Peggy Angus, an artist, industrial designer and teacher at t North London Collegiate School, where she promoted her social vision of 'Art for Life'. Her art combined an interest with folk art and avant-garde artistic practices, using simple materials and a set of rules to develop abstract patterns that could be industrially applied to ceramics and wall papers. This school was the first of a decade long collaboration between the artist, the architects and the firm of Carter of Poole which manufactured the tiles. Other collaborations included the Warren Wood Secondary School for Girls and Merthyr Tydfil College of Further Education.
The lobby appeared on the cover of The Architectural Review in July 1951. It shows the original lighting scheme which was designed to highlight the mural. Recent renovations, especially the addition of electric ducts and florescent tubes have muddled the original relationship between the artwork, the architectural design, and the lighting fixtures.

The building's exterior includes a statue of a human figure, and a plaque states that it was dedicated by the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Griffin in 1950.

Additional information on the school is found at British Listed Buildings Online

Sunday, 16 January 2011

yuendumu doors

One of the most significant collections of Indigenous art now held in the South Australian Museum is the former Yuendumu school doors. Yuendumu is a traditional community in the centre of Australia.
In 1983, five artists, including Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Roy Jupurrurla Curtis (other artists are deceased) painted thirty school doors with Dreaming designs, negotiating the content with other Warlpiri men and women who also collectively owned the designs. Twenty-seven Dreamings (tjukurrpa) were represented on the Doors, referring to more than two hundred sites in Warlpiri and Anmatyerre territory (see
The painted Doors were intended to remind the Yuendumu schoolchildren of important and sacred sites and their obligations which extended across and to the land.
They were also a way for the elders to signify their approval of going to school, the connections between traditional knowledges and school knowledge - and they acted as a warning about the dire consequences of vandalism. They were removed in 1995 in order to safeguard them from deterioration, but also, rumour has it, from being stolen by art thieves... by the 1990s they were immensely valuable.