A guest post by Arthur T...
|William Mitchell, sculptor, 1925-2020
From the Open Thread the other day:
On 22nd January 2020, the BBC News website ran the following story:
'Bracknell's William Mitchell Mural to move to car park'
And yet, so far as I can see, the BBC have failed to report the death of Bill Mitchell, an innovative English sculptor on 30th January 2020. Why might that be? - probably just sloppy journalism. Clue: He was a deeply religious Roman Catholic whose work includes the magniﬁcent Stations of the Cross at Clifton Cathedral, and the strongly ﬁgured doors at Liverpool Metropolitan RC Cathedral.
In the days since this comment there hasn't been, as far as I know, any report from the BBC.
This harps back to my earlier post ‘An Avowed Silence?’.
To my mind, Mitchell is an under recognised English artist with all the traits that the BBC would normally ﬁnd irresistible. He battled his way into the established art world through his time at the Royal College of Art. In his use of heavily modelled surfaces for large scale works such as murals and cladding, Bill Mitchell created an unrivalled individual abstract style of great originality.
He was born in Maida Vale London, but childhood ill health which resulted in extensive periods in hospital and convalescent homes denying him a formal general education. However, his self-funded studies took him to the Southern College of Art in Portsmouth, and then to the Royal College of Art in London. Awards won whilst at the latter enabled Mitchell to study in Rome, where he spent time at the oﬃces of Pier Luigi Nervi (famed for the sculptural qualities of his ﬂamboyant concrete structures). His subsequent appointment as design artist to assist the London County Council (LCC) Architects Department led him to associate with many of the leading architects. engineers and building contractors of his day, including Frederick Gibberd, Basil Spence, Building Design Partnership, Ove Arup and Contractor John Laing (whose photographic archive has recently been made public).
Mitchell’s Stations in Clifton RC Cathedral were the result of a long design process, when after agreement of details in preparation, a poignant series of charcoal sketches required approval from Rome before acceptance of the design work and installation of the panels could be completed.
Mitchell has written movingly about his depiction of the cruelty of the Passion embodied in his work. His spiritual experiences as a Catholic are reinforced by those of Arthur Dooley and Seán Crampton, each of whom reported an uplifting experience associated with the work in hand.
If Mitchell’s work were to be put on a par with that of John Piper or Graham Sutherland both of whom carried out religiously themed commissions, then the question must be why do the BBC refuse to report his death. Imagine the fuss if anything happened to Banksy, who in my opinion could not hold a candle to Mitchell. Mitchell’s urban public art, (much of which is listed) such as that in Bracknell, represents an important facet of mid-century design.
ITBBCB? ﬁnds the BBC complicit in the anti-Semitism surrounding the Labour Party and London’s ethnically changing population. Their anti-Christian position is a great threat not only to the religion itself, but also to important parts of our cultural heritage.
Increasingly, I ﬁnd the prospect of London as the holder of our heritage worrying. Religious art is under threat, if not of destruction, then equally of being held in vaults where nobody will be able to enjoy these treasures due to strict unwritten rules for curation.