Tuesday 25 March 2014

Darley House, Laud Street SE11

Following the Leader is a poignant piece intended by the artist, Peter Peri, as a memorial to the children killed in the Blitz.
The area was extensively bombed, and most of the houses that survived were taken down when peace broke out by a council determined to create a new Jerusalem. Darley House was built in the late 1940s and this piece dates from between 1949 and 1952.
Peri offered his services to Lambeth Council on spec, partly because he wanted to bring art to the people but also because he was broke (the War was not a time when commissions were common). Before the war, to save money, Peri had developed a technique for sculpting in wet concrete directly to a wall. He would secure an armature of wire mesh to the wall and trowel coloured concrete on. The technique attracted interest from industry and an exhibition of his work in 1938 had been sponsored by the Cement and Concrete Association.
The composition shows children holding hands in a spiral towards the sky. The concrete is ochre coloured. Originally, the bricks or the pointing may have been coloured but any background treatment has now been lost.
The location of the work is very strange. Instead of adorning the front, south-facing side overlooking Vauxhall Gardens, it is on the gloomy stair well round the back, looking out over the car park, electricicy substation and the bins.
Whether this is due to Peri's desire to create art for the residents rather than art-lovers, or simply because the architects had already finalised the design and the stair well was the only flat wall available, is impossible to say.

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