Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Roehampton Watchers

Artist Julian Bovis' large-scale architectural pen and ink drawings of South West London feature both prominent and obscure landmarks including Hampton Court, Richmond Bridge, Eel Pie Island, Hampton Lido, Teddington Lock and the Alton Estate. Aside from being familiar with the subject of all the images, I like their strong, hand drawn (with Rotring and Sharpie) graphic style, all black and white except for a single colour element in each, creating a gentle sense of disquiet.

The Roehampton Watchers (above) is my favourite, featuring both the Alton Estate in Roehampton and Lynn Chadwick's sculpture The Watchers. The sculpture had been sitting on the campus grounds in Roehampton University since the 1960s, but it was only in 2005 that the university 'rediscovered' it and realised its value – perhaps £200,000. Unfortunately, no one was watching The Watchers (isn't that the tagline of The Watchmen graphic novel/film – Who Watches the Watchmen?*) and within the year The Watchers had been stolen, presumably to melt down the bronze it was made of. Police estimated it would have taken at least eight men to move the sculpture, which weighed nearly a third of a ton.

Though the positioning of The Watchers in Bovis' picture never actually existed (or the reeds for that matter), it's nice to see the gold figures standing by the estate, their figures echoing the human shapes of the buildings behind them and offering protection. I like the eerie, almost science fiction quality to the image. After decades of being a symbol of urban decay, it's apt to remember that Francois Truffaut used the newly-built Alton Estate as a vision of dystopia for the setting of his 1966 film version of Ray Bradbury's classic sci-fi novel, Fahrenheit 451.

Julian Bovis artist blog
20:20 Richmond
The Architect's gallery

Previously on Barnflakes:
Happy 50th birthday Alton Estate!

Elsewhere on Barnflakes:
Stuck inside Roehampton with the Alton Blues again

*Umm, the phrase actually predates the film and graphic novel by a couple of thousand years. 

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