I’ve always been intrigued by the depth in Lowry’s paintings. Not just the pictorial depiction of a dying industrial world – that in itself is fascinating – but also the bleak beauty and isolation within them.
I’ve always, always had this love of the juxtaposition of industrial brutality in connection to landscape. When I was old enough in the late Fifties, early Sixties, I used to love wandering through London and because England was still scarred by the Second World War there were still lots of bombsites left. I always found that mixture of old industry still being around yet decrepit fantastic.
These places are cathedrals to industry
Since mechanisation, a lot less people work in factories. But when you think of it, these places were centres for humanity, where man became part of a machine. Within these edifices to industry, and these belching stacks, there’s also a sense of design. They’re not just willy-nilly, some of these places are cathedrals to industry.
You couldn’t have been brought up in Battersea without the edifice of Battersea Power Station being there all the time, belching away. It feels like a part of my life, my childhood. My brother ended up working there briefly when he came out of the Merchant Navy. He cleaned out the turbine.
I first became aware of its uniqueness when I started to get into art myself. I went to a school which was lousy in a lot of aspects but there were some very interesting individuals who took an interest in me as a human being. I had two art teachers who were fantastically influential on me. One was a more conventional artist and one was more experimental. She loved Battersea Power Station because it looked like an art-deco cow with stiff legs on its back.
Of course, it’s become part of America down there with the US embassy moving. When I was a kid, I remember Nine Elms being one long road with Battersea Power Station on one end and Nine Elms Cold Store, which was this huge concrete block full of all the food that was coming from abroad, at the other. Now a whole metropolis has grown up around it. Now you could be in Denver or any major western city.