Where he found a surprising amount of artistic flair on our doorstep
Think about a part of London that embodies rampant creativity and you might choose the emerging district of King’s Cross, or more edgy enclaves like Hackney or Peckham.
But look closer to home and you may find a surprising amount of artistic flair on your doorstep, of the kind that’s very much in evidence during Wandsworth Artists Open House in October.
The 50-strong Putney Artists, whose homes and studios make up one of the most popular trails in the annual event, certainly caught the imagination Daniel Lewis, a successful freelance photographer who moved to the area five years ago.
Although more used to working in east London, where he has shot the likes of Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the filmmakers Ron Howard, Danny Boyle and John Landis, Daniel was inspired to photograph the Putney Artists at work after stumbling upon last year’s trail.
Daniel said: “I’d wanted to expand my portfolio with more personal subjects. I went round the Open House exhibition with my girlfriend, and I thought this project would be a good way to get the ball rolling.
“The whole idea was to shoot artists in their natural working environment. When I did these portraits, I wasn’t telling the artists what to do – it was all about capturing them as they work and challenging my usual way of doing things.
“All the artists have been worried about how tidy their studio is, but the messier, the better. I wanted the shots to really reflect how it is when they’re working.”
Daniel picked a sample of 10 artists to reflect the diversity of the group, and his captivating portraits will be on display during the free event, which runs over the first two weekends in October.
Daniel said: “There are many different disciplines on show – quite a lot of painters, but also people who working in glass, etching and sculpture, and I tried to capture a whole cross-section of ages.
“I found one artist, Cally Lathey, who has just graduated from Central St Martin’s and is still working out of her mum and dad’s kitchen, which makes a great contrast to someone like Margaret Knott, who is a seasoned professional with their own set-up - pictured left in her studio.
“The thing I’ve learned from photographing the artists is that they’re all really young at heart. Some of the older members have a real spirit about them and a real love of life. That’s how I want to be when I’m their age.”
Daniel hopes his portraits will provoke many local people who have not yet discovered the Open House event to step outside and experience the wealth of talent on show behind each seemingly anonymous front door. All of Daniel Lewis's photographic portraits will be on show at Tried And True cafe, 279 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, for the duration of the Open House event.
“That’s the thing about London,” he said. “You may not realise there’s a really thriving artistic community on your doorstep. A lot of my clients are based in the east where it’s more edgy and artistic, so I was surprised to find so many creative people around here. It’s just such a great area to live.”
|More about Margaret:
When Margaret Knott first came to Putney in the early 1960s, the charms of the neighbourhood were not immediately apparent.
“I went to look at it and thought it was the worst place I’d ever been to in my whole life,” said the 79-year-old, who agreed to the move only as a concession to her late husband, Robert.
Despite her early reservations, Margaret – who admits to having been blinded by her upbringing in hilly, Georgian Hampstead – soon settled in the area, commuting into central London to work as a designer for some of the biggest advertising agencies of the time.
Back then, ‘cut and paste’ meant literally that, with everything drawn or manipulated by hand, and computers the stuff of science fiction.
Margaret put her flourishing career on hold to raise three sons from their home next to Putney Common, but later returned to work for the esteemed graphic designer Hans Schleger, famed for having brought Modernism and Surrealism into design under the pseudonym Zero. It was an experience that had a profound influence on her later work as an artist.
“Working with Hans was the best thing I ever did, and it taught me so much. It was brilliant,” said Margaret. “To have been a designer is amazing training for painting because you find you can balance things quite well. I’ve also worked to deadlines all my life. It’s good for you because it gives you an extra burst of adrenaline to get things done.”
In the half-century since she first arrived, Putney has been Margaret’s constant home, and a constant presence in the many paintings and etchings that continue to be forged at lightning speed, either outside on location or in the studio shed at the bottom of her garden.
It was at home that she first began experimenting with paint as a new kind of creative outlet, having endured Robert’s tragic early death from a heart attack on Putney Bridge in 1983.
Wandsworth Artists Open House runs from 11am to 6pm on October 4/5 and October 11/12. For more details on Putney Artists visit www.putneyartists.org or for the wider event see www.wandsworthart.com.
September 19, 2014