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Lambeth Community Care Centre

One of Seven Paintings for Lambeth Community Care Centre

oil on canvas 

Notes on this work

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In 1984 my own doctor, Raymond Pietroni, first mentioned the idea of providing pictures for the local Care Centre with which his group practice is closely associated. Dr Curtis another partner asked me whether I would be an art consultant for the Centre, to advise how they might best obtain for it some works of art on a very limited budget. He invited me to a staff discussion.

Parking my car in the prefab-lined blight of Dante Road and walking to the Centre is not an uplifting experience, and the freshness of Edward Cullinan's building is a heartening surprise. I warmed to the Centre immediately: the clinics and hospitals in my life have largely been dingy abandon-hope places, but this looked decidedly perky. Exploring the practical, yet airy and optimistic, interior and imagining myself to be a patient, I had a sense that the first thing that cared about me was the building itself.

The enthusiastic meeting concluded that physical paintings rather than prints under glass would contribute to the atmosphere best. The budget however would barely allow for the purchasing of student works of the required size and number. Megalomania struck again and I suggested doing the whole project myself. At least that way the works would have a sense of continuity, would be specially made for the space, and would reinforce the association with the locality in the form of one it its professional artists who identified with the Centre's aims.

A few weeks later I went along with my assistant to measure up the relevant walls. He made up seven canvases, the largest ten feet long. I worked on these most nights for three months, improvising and revising until I thought I'd made a series of rich and differentiated colour experiences which would help bring the outside world of clouds, trees and land landscape into the building (as so much of its architecture succeeds in doing); especially since most of the pictures were to hang in the only part of it from which one cannot immediately relate to the garden or the sky outside.

Only one of the pantings has a title (Sweetshop Memories). It is also the only one to refer to an interior since it is positioned where views of the garden can be seen all around. 

As I worked on the canvases I was particularly interested in the reactions of visitors and sitters, especially those of my mother who was of an age with many of the patients. Although I sneaked in once or twice to see what one of two of them looked like in available light, I waited until the whole series was finished before installing them. The staff organised a grand party (on the day after my fiftieth birthday): Richard Morphet made an intricate and amusing speech, and the patients baked me a spectacular cake which did absolutely nothing for my health.

Works & Texts (1992) page 167