This week I am bringing things back down to earth with a resounding thud…can you hear it? THUD. From the glorious lobby doors in Barcelona last week to two doors in Stokes Croft, Bristol, which couldn’t be further removed from their Spanish cousins.
Graffiti and tagging is rife in this particular spot, and there is scarcely a square inch of wood or wall that has not been scrawled on. In one sense, it is what brings a unique character to this small, but ferociously independent area of the city, but in another sense, it also highlights social, political and cultural unrest combined with urban poverty.
Colourful as it may seem, I don’t think I’d like to live behind this door, or the one below for that matter, but some people do live there and have to put up with the disrespect shown to their property.
So something less beautiful and unsettling this week…all part of Thursday doors.
Back to Barcelona again (a rich source of doorage) and a little look at a couple of the enormous appartment doors that can be found in the more affluent commercial areas of the city. This door was sandwiched between two rather exclusive shops, and was typical of the rather imposing entrances in the area. I particularly liked it because of its Tolkeinesque design – elves live here.
However, this door is not the main event of this post. Much of the attraction I have for doors is imagining what lies on the other side – does the door provide any insight or is it a barrier to discovery?
One of these large doors happened to be open when my daughter and I strolled past, and oh my! what an incredible lobby area lay on the other side. I was utterly overwhelmed by the decoration and detail to this entry way.
So we stepped closer to get a better look…
From the ceiling to the floor, this lobby oozes class. Stunning ornate plasterwork on the ceiling draws you in past the beautiful tiled walls and marble steps. and on either side of the steps metalwork rails (which appear to have no purpose other than decoration) lead you a second interior set of doors.
The beautiful inner set of doors are worthy of a Thursday doors post in their own right, and the crazy lampshade seems to be utterly at home in this visual feast. Now I don’t know if this is typical of Barcelona appartments, but I think it is amazing that so much effort has gone into something that will be seen by so few people. This is a city that seems to be proud of putting on displays, and for the visitor it is awe inspiring.
Set in a wall on a hill very close to where I work is this beautiful old weathered door. It is the perfect ‘secret garden’ door, but it is not the secrets that hide on the other side of this wall that grabbed my attention, rather it is the small stone sculptures that pepper the outside of the wall along its length.
The artwork is by the late Bob Ballard, an artist from Bristol, and I found this tribute on the Society of Graphic Fine Art website which tells you a little more about him:
Bob Ballard was born in London in 1944. He had worked full time as an artist since 1989, when he won a Goldsmiths Travel Bursary (drawing and studying Romanesque art in Spain). Thereafter he was awarded many prizes, including the Bruckhaus Derringer Award from the Royal Watercolour Society. Bob’s work encompassed abstract and representative styles in a wide range of media, such as sculpture, print, oils, watercolour and pastels. Later in his career he was a senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, and senior tutor and research associate for COREOX, University of Oxford. Bob was a council member for both the Society of Graphic Fine Art (SGFA) and the Bath Society of Artists (BSA). He lived in Bristol with his wife Maggie.
Bob Ballard attached a number of small sculptures to the wall which the curious would notice. Little gifts of artwork that brighten up a day. I love this wall, I love the door and I love the sculptures.
I found this quote from Bob Ballard on his Facebook feed, which I rather like:
“ In my work I always try to place the unknown next to the known. Defamiliarisation is the essence of art. The closer you look at it the greater the distance from which it stares back at you.”
I usually like to present one door at a time in my Thursday doors posts to allow for a thorough examination of the door, without the distractions of others. However, sometimes it is appropriate to look at several at once – besides which, how else will I be able to clear out my archive of doors?
On a recent trip to Barcelona with my daughter, I noticed that in the old city many of the doors to apartments above shops were extraordinarily thin and tall. Some were so slender that you wonder how larger people might manage. Were they designed this way to maximise the space for the shop front? or was there some other reason for this architectural design? Answers on a postcard…
Here are a few of the many doors we saw:
This door was open, and what I saw inside was not at all what I expected. This is not a place for those afraid of confined spaces. Immediately behind the door, there was a stone spiral stairtcase, tighter than any I have ever seen before. By the look of it on the doorbell, there are eight apartments through this door. The mind boggles at the logistics of meeting people travelling in opposite directions, and looking at this through the lens of the British pre-occupation of health and safety – isn’t this something of a horrific fire escape risk? Interesting as it is, I fret every time I look at this picture.
About 18 months ago I was on a secondment with my work, and spent two days a week in Westminster. This gave me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with parts of London as a visitor, rather than as a Londoner, which I am originally, having been brought up in North London. I left in my twenties, lived in different parts of the country and abroad and have been settled in Bristol now for about 26 years or so.
The great thing about seeing things through a visitor’s eyes is that nothing is ignored or taken for granted, every small detail examined and logged. It is so easy to miss that with which you are most familiar.
So…to the door. This door is in the wall surrounding Westminster Abbey garden, a door which most people simply walk past. For me it is not the wood or hinges, or even the sombre utilitarian sign that holds the interest, but it is the surrounding doorway, the mix of stonework and the way it is keyed into the wall itself that I am attracted to. Of course, there is also the mystery…What lies beyond? Who goes there? How can you get in?
This door will be familiar to regular readers who might have seen my recent street art post about this amazing mural by Alex Lucas. I felt it was just too good an opportunity not to include it in this week’s Thursday doors offering. The door is so well disguised, it takes a while to properly make it out – you can just see the buzzers to the left of the double door.
Alex Lucas is a very well known artist, designer and illustrator in Bristol who has, through numerous commissions, decorated many buildings in the area and pretty much created a Bristol brand with her work. I think that this might be one of her largest murals, and probably the most complex.
First: I can’t believe that I have been doing doors for 26 weeks, half a year, it feels like no time at all.
Second: I expect that the phrase ‘when is a door not a door?’ has been used many, many times in Thursday Doors, but it feels appropriate here.
Third: I have not been as attentive this week as I might usually be due to a great many domestic distractions.
This door, in the heart of the old city in Barcelona, has for whatever reason been filled in. I have included it in the Thursday Doors series though because this is a common practice, and I find a great many of these ‘not a door any more’ kind of doors.
I love the textures of the bricks and cement surround and the inclusion of an iron ring, replacing where a knocker might once have been. If you look carefully, even a ‘not door’ can’t escape the clutches of graffiti and at some point in the past bunny ears have been added with the iron ring doubling up as a bunny nose.
The ‘not door’ is sandwiched between a more typical graffitied door on the left and a sliding gate on the right, offering more doors for your money (and plenty of contrast).