Laurence O'Toole

Objects & Paintings

Public Art  —  1988 Onwards


A Personal Perspective of the Contemporary Art Scene.

What I knew whilst at college was that I held the contemporary art world in rather low esteem. At the time this art world was typified by many art exhibitions I witnessed at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham where anything seemed to pass itself off as a work of art; where art hype seemed to have more substance than the work itself. To me it seemed to be a very superficial reality that pandered to conceptual originality infused with the bizarre. It was as if art had been debased to be anything as long as it received the sanction from some part of the art establishment. Then there was the corporate art, where art became investment commodity, or the fashionable galleries, purveyors of fashionable fallacies. I knew that I did not want to engage in these worlds.

Where do we go from here?

I was very fortunate to find myself after completing the course in the position of being able to earn my living from art. In 1988 before starting at the Polytechnic I had been invited by my friend and fellow artist Steve Field to assist him with a mural project he was undertaking in Aston, Birmingham and later on a mural in Lye near Stourbridge. By 1991 Steve was the Dudley Borough Public Artist and had founded the Dudley Public Art Unit.

Whilst I was at college Steve commissioned me to undertake a feasibility study for a Camera Obscura. The proposed location was at Dudley Castle and Zoo. After I finished college I began assisting Steve with public art projects. By 1992 some European funding was made available for the Camera Obscura and so it was one of my early independent public art works.

From 1991 to 1995 when I moved to County Cork in Ireland I worked regularly on a variety of public art projects and school placements. Whether assisting Steve with his projects or undertaking projects at his behest. I have always appreciated our joint creativity and the harmonious working relationship that we shared.


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