Derek Nice and I first met in Southend in the summer of 1956. In fact we both marched up the stairs at Rochford Hospital, never having met before, to stand either side of the bed of Yvonne Patterson, who was recuperating from TB. She was a somewhat exotic creature for Southend: her grandfather had been Mayor of Marseille & she spoke French with a Fernandel accent. Hallo Yvonne, if you are still around.
It was surprising that Derek and I hadn’t met before: he was a Southend School of Art, where I had many friends, and had studied under Tony Oldfield, who was also an unofficial mentor to me. Anyhow, we immediately shared a wavelength, and spent that summer drawing, painting, mono-printing & making pots together, meantime roaring about the area in the evenings, telling impossibly extended shaggy dog stories. The deal was that each of us telling the story had to incorporate the embellishments put in by the other the last time it was told, and then add some new finesses. Jokes that ended ” never put all your Basques in one exit ” and the like… and went on for hours.
I had finished my first degree (in English) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford: I went back to do a B.Litt and then a Teaching Diploma, after which I taught for two years in a German University, followed by Greece and a year in St Ives, after which again, via supply teaching, I ended up in Hornsey College of Art, followed by the NE London Poly. Derek went via a London ATD and some time at the Central School, variously into teaching and design for TV, film, museums and exhibitions. Among other interludes he was at one time Assistant Stage Manager at Bromley Rep, and a drapery counter hand at Selfridges. No one could accuse him of narrow interests, but I have always admired his great central ability to build anything he can think up.
Teaching was in principle a stable occupation, but the Colleges were taking a beating in the late ’70s, and the commercial world was very uncertain, what with various crises, so I took ‘early retirement’ and went back to full time painting, and Derek ended up also making paintings and sculptures full-time, but with various excursions along the way. For a brief period we worked together on the Gozo Experience, which was Derek’s baby: I did the research and the script and he supervised the design construction and sound-scape for the client, Brian Mizzi. It was pretty successful over the years, though not to our enrichment or renown. Nothing else like that came up, though many schemes and proposals were put forward.
So here we are, painting and sculpting, trying, in Tony Oldfield’s phrases, not to ‘get it over rich’, and not to ‘get a woolly line’ (with a Yorkshire accent, please note). Derek’s subject-matter, wherever he is, seems to return constantly to the sea, and mine to the fields and the land I stand on. As miserable old Tom Eliot said (quite correctly)
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
(East Coker 174/5)
At any rate, this exhibition is about where we are now, and we intend it to be enjoyable as opposed to solemn. Hope you come, and hope you enjoy