The Mayor of Camden opened our latest art exhibtion, which showcases the work of 11 artists living in the borough.
The Mayor, Councillor Nazma Rahman spoke about her love of art and the power that art has to change lives. She told the audience of about 100 visitors, that St Pancras Hospital had very happy memories for her as she worked here, starting when she was on a placement from university, learing about nutrition.
"I was supposed to come for two months and I ended up staying two years. Everyone was very friendly and made me so welcome. It has been lovely to return here, and see all the artworks which must be so uplifting for people who come into the building, for support, and also for staff."
Councillor Rahman also told people about the work of her charity the Young Camden Foundation, which gives small grants for projects and activities that support children across the borough, including many that are arts-related.
Chief Financial Officer Sam Gibbens, thanked the Mayor and spoke about the close partnership between the council and the North London Mental Health Partnership.
The launch event also featured entertainment from Camden Town soul, blues pop musicians The Poor Billionaires, including Bee Ororo, Julie Harrington and Gregg Birrell, who run our C&I Choir.
The artists exhibiting include a Camden postman who used art to help recover from depression. David Francis' pop art pictures are on display just a few seconds’ walk from the place he went for therapy during the pandemic.
David, who works at the Mount Pleasant sorting office, said: “During the pandemic everything got to me a bit. My therapist suggested I start to draw and paint again, because I had always liked drawing and painting; and it really helped with my recovery.
“It gave me something to focus on. I was amazed and really pleased to hear that the exhibition was in the hospital, just round the corner from where I went for appointments.”
David’s works reflect the borough’s nightlife with vivid colour portraits including Boy George and drag queens.
The exhibition, called “11 Camden Voices” includes work both by artists who have lived in the area for decades, and by those who have come from other parts of the world, reflecting the vibrancy and multi-cultural nature of the borough.
A strong sense of place shines though, with the exhibition reflecting everything from Camden’s famous nightlife and club scene to its green, open spaces. Gabriela Alexander, who trained at The Camden Institute during the 1980s, creates evocative landscapes through the seasons in Waterlow Park and Hampstead Heath.
The Brutalist architecture of Rowley Way, in Camden, is captured in drawings by the late Hugh Hatfield, who lived in the area for more than 25 years. His widow, Vera Nunes, is also exhibiting a selection of powerful photographs of the architecturally important, Grade 2 listed estate.
Vera said: “There is something unique about this borough. Camden is a melting pot: it is multi cultural and consequently creative. '11 Camden Voices' reflects and celebrates this diversity and creative expression.”
The gallery is open Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm, funtil 12 January 2024, excluding the Christmas and New Year bank holidays, in the Conference Centre, St Pancras Hospital, 4 St Pancras Way NW1 OPE
Notes on the 11 artists whose work is included in 11 Camden Voices:
Gabriela Alexander started painting during O and A level art classes and continued with courses in watercolour and life drawing classes at The Camden Institute during the 1980’s. This technically accomplished background underpins evocative landscapes reflecting four seasons of nature across a variety of Camden’s open spaces, including Waterlow Park, Parliament Hill Fields and Hampstead Heath. These are traditional in style and technique, suggesting the mood of Michael Powell’s woodlands in Gone to Earth or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, with brooding branches and trees moving from light into night.
David Francis reflects a life immersed in the night life and club scene of Camden in venues that include The Black Cap, Electric Ballroom and The Camden Palace. A self-taught painter who explores the therapeutic value of painting, his pop-art paintings revel in a love of icons with gorgeous heartfelt vivid colour portraits that include Boy George, drag queens, Anita Ekberg as a killer nun, and Pete Burns. They reflect the golden days of Camden’s vibrant night life culture and the painter’s love of Pop Art.
Manel Güell has created a vast body of mainly oil paintings that reflect the life and journey of an artist born in Catalonia and growing up at the end of the Franco era. This involves a life marked by the socio-political, religious and gender forces of the period before the artist moved to the freewheeling hedonism of Paris in the 80s and then onto Camden where the artist now lives. His highly personal work includes deconstructions of the influence of classic paintings and artwork linked to AIDS/HIV which will be focused on during World AIDS DAY 2023.
Hugh Hatfield (1955-2022) graduated in Fine Art from Sunderland Faculty of Arts, and between 1980-1993 worked as a Fine Art technician for the Hayward Gallery, joining The Bow Arts Trust in 1994 as one of its founding members. The artist developed a profound sense of perspective throughout his work, where organic forms are broken down and reconstructed in a new space, providing the viewer a new way of seeing. This approach to his work has been influenced by the cubism of Braque and Picasso, the metamorphic objects of Bill Woodrow’s sculptures and Richard Long’s Stone Circles. We are proud to present a selection of his work including self-portraits, semi-abstract “Heads “, and drawings of Rowley Way - an example of Brutalist architecture in Camden, north London, where the artist lived for 20 years.
Miriam Mannish has a long association with Camden in the Voluntary sector and, after a BA Hons degree and painting Foundation course at City Lit, benefitted from Arts Factory summer schools while not forgetting the principles of the Buddhist Cecil Collins which underpin her work. Influenced and inspired by the Impressionists, Surrealists and contemporary artists, the conceptual artist creates unique 2-dimensional works using a variety of mixed media. The results in the series ‘Hidden Depth: Art from Within’ have a spontaneity reveling in spaces within colour, lines and shapes, affecting one another both symmetrically and asymmetrically. The artist is on a journey to explore art and all that can be found both beyond the surface of art and within the mind of her viewer.
David Napier was born and lives in Camden. He trained at the Working Men’s College in Camden and has developed a refined, focused, quiet skill with functional bowls and plates that employ muted colours and intricate markings that resemble meditations on beauty and the goodness in life. The pure, circular shapes and subtle colours reflect the quiet skill of a masterly craftsman. The exhibition will highlight a full range of work by this Camden-based sculptural ceramic artist.
Vera Nunes is the widow of Hugh Hatfield and a self-taught photographer. We present a group of photographs that capture the architectural power of Rowley Way in the borough of Camden, where the photographer has lived since 1999. The Grade 2 listed estate was designed by Neave Brown and is one of the most architecturally important local authority designed estates in Camden. We are presenting photographs taken in the summer between 2017 and 2023, which reveal an eye for texture, space, colour and shape, complementing the semi-abstract architectural work of Hugh Hatfield.
Eski Palmer worked as a gardener for many years in Camden and before that as a community worker. She has lived in Camden since the early eighties which has not held back an inquisitive mind and a travel curiosity for worlds beyond Camden. For 11 Camden Voices we are presenting portrait photography of Mongolian people during a 2019 visit to the Naadam Festival in the Ulaanbaatar capitol of Mongolia. These are portraits that capture the self-taught photographer’s warmth and empathy towards lives and cultures far beyond our local community.
Nicky Scott-Francis. a Camden resident for over 30 years, is a self-taught visual artist, animator, sculptor and flautist - a.k.a. Nicky Heinen. As a synaesthetic, the artist can see shapes while playing the flute and hearing music when drawing. This is a major force that forms the background to her visionary creativity, linked to family ancestry which involves references to properties of the moon. We are presenting a major work related to the moon as the 3D centerpiece of the installation. The musician will also feature in a gallery sound installation.
Geoff Titley frequently returns to his native Australia, although he has made living in Camden a home from home where he constantly pushes the boundaries of creative digital photography. We are presenting a new series of work focusing on the gardens of London. These were inspired during the Covid pandemic restrictions, when artificial gardens provided us with an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world, observe colours and shapes of foliage and flowers, watch species grow and wither. At a time of social separation, they became an opportunity to reconnect with often forgotten gardens that include in this series St Pancras Gardens next to our gallery, the Pergola of Hampsted Heath, and three gardens within Regents Park. The display will include 3D organic matter, which resembles an out of this world sense of nature pushing into the realms of extremity. They underline the tension that exists between authenticity and artificiality.
Simon Tolhurst is a figurative artist producing paintings, drawings and prints of portraits, nudes and still life subjects. Based in Camden for 20 years, Simon is the Portrait Artist in Residence at University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre, making portrait drawings of patients, loved ones, staff and volunteers, as part of the Portrait Project for Hematology Cancer Care UCLH Charity. Simon first focused on portraits whilst working at the University of London Union (from 1991 to 2017) and we are presenting a selection of both these drawings alongside oil on canvas portraits of some of the same subjects.