Irreverent friends' legacies inform art and architecture
Since I started writing this column 18 months ago, three of my close friends have died, of which Malcolm Pollard, the artist, was the last (19 June). This is a sad and depressing fact, as they were all special people who, quite apart from their charm and beauty, lived dogged lives of principle, which often cast them outside the mainstream of their professions.
In spite of this, all contributed a great deal to both art and architecture.
Anthony Benjamin was a painter whose description and exploration of light were extraordinary. Anthony created light by observing it, and spread light through his personality. Jaques Hordelatte was an architect from Bordeaux. His work was always surprising and poetic. I remember well seeing his student housing project clad in road barriers and other traffic paraphernalia. It was a perfect foil to the busy street in front.
All three were gardeners. Malcolm created many gardens behind his town house in Northampton. He would treat this patch of land as a room to be totally refurnished from time to time. The idea of creating a garden that would mature was not on his agenda.
Two or three years of a particular colour could be changed, seemingly overnight, into a haven of wild flowers collected from the surrounding countryside. Many works could be in the making at any time, and some emerged almost without intent. A day on a beach with him and his wife, Elke, would turn into an evening of creating objects from the beach stones and detritus. The activity was the work, not the result which could be cast aside, having served its purpose in the making.
Anthony's garden, which nestles still in a valley by the sea in north Norfolk, is a much larger affair. His concerns were longer term and most definitively leave a legacy to those that survive him. The garden is not attached to the house, which makes a decision to enter the garden into something special. The entry is marked by a rustic wooden bridge, past a large pond full of goldfish. Not just a few - thousands of them - the colour and movement were important to him. The garden itself hovers in between the intended and raw nature. When the spring encourages the grass to grow, great masses of wild grass sway in the wind, which transforms the land into a dynamic plain of light. Routes to walk are mown carefully through this visual delight to carry the observer to other parts of this almost incidental place. His studios are in the garden. The garden offers both separation and inspiration to the artist on his way to work.
Jaques'garden is uncompromising. It is small and lies behind a former cow shed in the village of Flotte en Re on the island of Ile de Re. This is a walled garden of rough stones, 2.5m high. It is wall to wall grass, punctuated by as many hollyhocks that might care to reside there.This garden could be defined as low maintenance, which perfectly suited its creator, who retreated to the island from Bordeaux to walk, eat well and sleep.The garden is a delightful maze of points of colour on vertical sticks - a 3D abstract painting.
I loved all these men for their irreverence;
each had an intent to pursue their own vision of the world. As all three matured they relaxed into a world of their own making, which they enjoyed inhabiting. Although all were known, none succumbed to the convention of fashion and none was concerned with the dictates of theory-making.
I miss them all and often think of them as they whisper in my ear, reminding me of some superfluous mark or line I am about to draw.
WA, from my new kitchen table