Art School: the story I am about to tell
The story I am about to tell you
happened more than 20 years ago. I was then an Art student at a university in a
small town near London.
I hardly spoke English; one of my
best friends was Morris, the cleaner of the fine art department. I assume that
he felt quiet comfortable and unthreatened with my poor English. I remember how
he felt betrayed one morning when he discovered that I could read newspapers.
I think that the biggest dilemma of a cleaner in a fine
art department is to decide what is art, or what is rubbish. In my University
they found a simple solution, in every studio there was a big rubbish bin so the
students could throw away everything they don’t need, and the cleaners would
only clear the bins. It worked better in theory as most of the time the studios
floors were untidy.
One late morning Morris visited my
studio. He stood on the other side of my working table and told me a funny story
about a street cleaner who became a millionaire. While he was telling me the
story I noticed that he was holding a long thin aluminium rod and straightening
it, it was almost straight as a ruler when I realized that we might be
approaching a little disaster.
“Where did you pick it up
from?” I asked him. “From here, from the floor” he answered nervously. Do you
know what is it? “No” he answered.
“Well” I said: “It
belongs to Julian, the student I shared the studio with, it’s a model for a
project of a large abstract sculpture which he was bending and twisting
carefully during the past three weeks! He went this morning to buy a few large
aluminium pipes so he can enlarge this model to a massive out door
“Oh my god!!!” said Morris, “How stupid of me! I
shouldn’t have touched it! Please don’t tell him anything,” he pleaded, and then
he twisted, bent and threw the piece on the floor and even stepped on it couple
of times then he rushed out of the studio.
Later, in the
evening when Julian came back with the pipes, I didn’t say a
The following day Julian put the model on his table
and to my astonishment he started enlarging it almost scientifically.
Two weeks later this second year project had ended and
Julian’s piece was ready. It was placed among other large pieces on the main
lawn of the university ready for an art criticism. A great day! A few lecturers
arrived from London’s art schools. We all went to listen and to argue, Morris
came with me, he stood next to me, leaning by a tree and
Chris Lane who was the head of the Department,
sadly he is no longer with us, started the review. To Morris’s and my
astonishment he started by saying that it was the most exciting sculpture that
he had seen in the University for some years! It was fresh and spontaneous, free
and dynamic and above all daring and original! The rest of the teachers couldn’t
Morris couldn’t believe his ears. “What
a load of rubbish!” he said to me. Then he walked away nodding his head in
Three years later I met Chris Lane at the
private view of Terry Frost exhibition at the Serpentine gallery in London. I
asked him if he remembered Julian large sculpture. “Sure!” he said, “such a
wonderful piece! It is the only piece that we left on the lawn, in fact it is
I told him the story, he laughed, but as a
true Englishman with a great sense of humour, he left the piece there.