Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Patina of Art

St Martins is on the move. The colleges that make up Central St Martins have magnificent buildings in the West End, especially Southampton Row and Charing Cross Road - purpose built, full of heritage, oozing artiness, smelling of linseed and enhanced by the decades of creative patina that has settled on the surfaces. Currently the whole of the Central St Martins empire is to be rehoused in new offices in Kings Cross.
As part of the moving process students, staff and alumni have the opportunity to 'Map the Move' by making drawings of the buildings. Choosing the one that held most significance for us, Valerie and I headed for 107-109 Charing Cross Road where our student life at St Martins had begun. As Graphic Design students we were delighted to be in the milieu with painters, sculptors, print makers, fashion designers et al.

I was so relieved to find the place beautifully grubby, chipped and peeling, paint splattered, scraped and scarred. The hands and feet of so many talented and inspiring people had left their mark through the natural process of just being there. The building is full of light and magic. We spent the day drawing - drawing empty chairs, spaces, windows, doors, the call bell for the lift, and absorbing the intoxicating spirit of the place.
As was our bent in the late 70s, we headed to Maison Bertaux for tea and pastries, as much a part of our St Martins experience as anything. We continued drawing and revelling in a day of such undiluted pleasure.
Charing Cross Road is a great building, although completely unprepossessing from the street front. I was overwhelmed by the need for it to stay as a place where art happens. The sense of creativity and energy is tangible in the air. The strata of experiences lay rich in its foundations. It is so much more than bricks and mortar. There's quite a few people hot under the collar about it. Have a look at the facebook group and sign the petition.