Design: Logan's run
Why would one of the grandest names in British art choose to live down a dingy, south-London backstreet? Esther Walker finds out. Photographs by Andrew Hayes-Watkins
Saturday 06 September 2008
It's a mystery why Andrew Logan lives in London Bridge. Despite being a die-hard Londoner, even I think it's a total dump. Unloved and unlovely, the only thing the area really has going for it is the food mecca Borough Market. Other than that it's just dirty streets, crippled pigeons, spooky industrial dead-ends, railway sidings and occasional stabbings.
Can one of Britain's grandest artists – the man who invented the Alternative Miss World, who has a museum dedicated to his art – really live here? Down this gnarled street? Past this wig depot? Past this man outside a pub smoking a joint, on the phone to his bookie?
Yes, he really can.
On the outside, the building – called The Glasshouse – is an unprepossessing modern construction, painted dark orange. Inside, the house (which used to house both a garage and a prostitute's flat) is a paradoxical mixture of tranquillity and madness. The space is vast and calm but surfaces are a riot of colour – bright pinks, oranges, reds, rich blues, purples and turquoises – and in every corner there is a flash and sparkle of mirror and glass (the materials Logan has worked with for the past 40 years).
"We first saw this place in 1989, just after the zoning laws were changed," says Logan, "so all these yuppies were buying up old industrial buildings and turning them all into flats. There was permission on this place to turn it into six flats, but we didn't want that, we just wanted somewhere to work and live. A lot of people had started to live in converted lofts and warehouses at that time; my brother Peter Logan and Derek Jarman were the first, in 1971, and we joined them in Butler's Wharf, where Derek made Jubilee in 1975."
With the help of his partner Michael Davis, an architect, an enormous glass structure was built over the top of the old garage and adjacent to the flat, which is now a spare room and a study; they also added an extra floor on top of the old flat, now the master bedroom and bathroom. French doors separate the bedroom from the balcony overlooking the glasshouse, meaning that in the summer, light floods into the bedroom rather early in the morning.
"I don't mind," laughs Logan. "I've recently started doing yoga at 7am, so being woken up early doesn't bother me too much."
The glasshouse fulfils the triple function of sitting room, party venue and Logan's studio, workshop and showroom. Most of the larger pieces in Logan's collection have now been moved to the Ruthin Craft Centre in north Wales, where Logan is putting on a show as part of the centre's £4.5m redevelopment.
The powerful colour scheme of turquoises, reds and shocking pinks was inspired by a trip to Mexico. "Shortly after we bought the place we went to Mexico for the first time and it blew our minds," says Davis. "We also realised that if you have a glass roof you can't really paint the walls white – it's just too glaring. Painting the walls bright colours absorbs some of the light and it has the added bonus that it is reflected in all the glass and mirror in the studio. It was so unfashionable when we did it – everyone else was doing their houses in black and chrome and there was a real fear of colour."
Davis and Logan are devoted to the area, despite its occasional grottiness. "This is the original London!" says Davis. "This is where the Romans were, where it all began. There is so much history here, it's fantastic, you can see it in all the street names – Snowsfield Street is where Mr Snow's fields would have been and you can see the heritage of the tanneries, which used to be here, in Leathermarket Street and Tanner Street. When we moved in one or two tanneries were still here. The smell was terrible. You had to hold your breath as you went past."
The Glasshouse is decked out, for the majority, with Logan's pieces; weird and wonderful creatures suspended from the ceiling on fishing wire, slowly turning and catching the sun. But there are other treasures too: Logan was for many years a jumble-sale enthusiast, at first driven to them out of financial necessity and then drawn back to them by the things he found.
"At my first jumble sale I bought a book, for 10p," he says. "And I was hooked. I went to jumble sales all through the Sixties – I was a student so I couldn't afford new clothes. It was tremendously exciting; all these women would be lined up outside the doors and there was a crackle of anticipation, then the doors would open and there'd be this mad rush, elbows everywhere, everyone diving for all the best things. Back then there was a lot of art nouveau in jumble sales and I found the most wonderful things. I had a collection of evening dresses I found entirely in jumble sales."
But the focus of The Glasshouse is Logan's work, glittering on every surface and winking in the sunshine. "All I wanted when I bought this place was somewhere to work and live. I've never wanted to go somewhere else to work. I learn a lot from living with my art, which I've always done, even when it wasn't very comfortable. Some artists like their studios to be away from where they live, so they can escape. Sometimes I wonder how my work would have progressed had I not lived with it. But not for long. I think it's better like this."
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