Well, I think the V&A is just a treasure house of everything you can think of and everything I'm interested in, I mean there is the theatre museum, which was here before it went away, it was here.
When I was at the college which was from '53 to '56, it was very quiet. I mean I could come in and go to draw, and if you went higher than the second floor you wouldn't see anybody else. I could sit in the ceramic galleries and not see a soul, just have one attendant there and I could draw all the afternoon. So it was a very different place.
The cafe was tiny, I can't remember which room it was in but all around the walls were the original Beggarstaff Brothers posters so we would sit at the table next to the Don Quixote, that wonderful Don Quixote. I mean you could touch it, you could touch the paper. I think that was only for a couple of years and it was quickly put behind glass but it was being in the middle of all this extraordinary art.
There was a door that actually connected so you were thirty seconds away from the V&A and you were straight into the medieval sculpture, so it was just the most extraordinary treasure house.
Well, I think the element of popular art suddenly appeared. I mean, the first year at the Royal College you had to spend all the time in the life rooms either drawing or painting from life and then in the second year you were more or less left to your own devices and I started painting pictures like children with comics and the pop culture began to enter then. Still a ruffian really. I mean, still working class, still going to the wrestling, still going to football so although I was becoming cultured it was all still there and I think I just started to paint my life. I painted the childhood I remembered, the children reading comics, the fairground pieces, the world I knew. I think that became my branch of pop art.
I think what was relevant in coming into the V&A at that point was craft really. I mean you would walk through and see tiny little wood sculptures, medieval wood sculptures of Christ or whatever it might be. My chosen craft was Roman lettering, I was, and still am, quite skilled in lettering but we also were taught wood carving, stone carving, wood engraving, silversmithing, architecture, anatomy - so we were taught the crafts. It was very much a V&A tradition, art schools still were, of being very much craft places as well.
I've chosen William Blake first because people have joked over the years 'am I related to him?' and once when I had a show at the Tate, it was in '83 and some of the warders are still friends, they still come up, and one of them came up and said 'Is our Mr Blake your uncle?'. So I feel an affinity with Blake
and sometimes in the watercolours I almost feel as though I've done them so I've chosen that because I may be his ancestor. It would be nice. I should do a search really and see if I am.
And then I've chosen a group of pieces by English artists in the early twentieth century. This, for instance, is a Graham Sutherland. They made wood engravings mainly about the countryside and it was Sutherland and Badmin and Griggs.
Gill is another person that I collect and have always been interested in. I suppose originally because, as I've said, my craft for the intermediate was Roman lettering and I mean Gill is still the typeface I instantly relate to. Gill and stencil I use constantly and I've got some actual Gill wood blocks so I've got some nice things by him. He has a particular way of working which is white line on black where he more or less keeps the black block and just cuts the line away. Whereas, the other way of working is to cut your whites away and leave a black line standing. So that's a technique he uses particularly.
Just the simplicity of that line and just those little drawn lines making the shadow.
That's lovely; the atmosphere, I mean, all that smoky atmosphere and then the performer. Beautiful.
That face I mean there's nothing there on that side. You know it's in shadow and you kind of know all about it. I also liked the way he used lettering. I imagine somebody else put that on.
Then we've got Gwen John and in the kind of controversy of whether Gwen or Augustus was the better I think they were both extraordinary and both different and both fantastic and my quest as a collector is to get a Gwen John watercolour. It was to get a Gwen John watercolour and a Sickert etching. I bought a Sickert etching so now if the right one turns up I'll probably get one at auction.
David Redhead: Well we'll look the other way
What was so exciting then, looking round today, to see people working here just with a box or what they want to see and they can touch them, I mean it's extraordinary. I mean it's a secret, you know, I mean it's always quiet in here. I suppose the students know about it don't they? But the fact you can look through a box of Rembrandts is amazing.