I was born in Troutbeck Bridge, a small village by Lake Windermere in 1951.
On my mother’s side the family were woodcutters and charcoal burners, and
when that trade ended they worked as gardeners for one of the local families.
My father’s side came from Barrow in Furness a grim ship-building town on
the coast of what is now called Cumbria. I was destined to be a plumber,
my father’s trade, but thanks to the grant system I went to art school. My
choice didn’t go down well with the family, but they didn’t have to pay for it
and couldn’t stop me either, I just got on my motorbike and left. No doubt they
were glad to see the back of me.
I studied at Lancaster College of Art and at Central School of Art and Design,
and much later at the Royal College of Art. I started as a potter and then became
known as a sculptor; usually seen as a part of the group known in the eighties
as the British Object Sculptors, or the Lisson Gallery Sculptors. I have shown
in galleries and museums throughout the world, and my work is held in major
international collections including the Tate Gallery. I have also completed
major public commissions in France, Germany and in the UK. I like writing,
and am a regular contributor to art magazines such as Frieze. In the late seventies
I started to write fiction. As far as I’m concerned this is just another aspect of my
practice, no different than making a drawing, or a sculpture, or making dinner.
The Lake District stories are partly based on my own experience, and partly
based on stories I have heard from other people. They are based in reality, but
they have been turned into fictions. The great aphorist Karl Kraus called his work
‘one and a half truths’. Mine, if they count for anything, are half-truths, but stories
none the less.
These days, I am working towards two solo exhibitions; am Professor of Fine
Art at Slade School of Fine Art, University College London; am working on a
book and an exhibition of Modern Japanese Sculpture; and trying to build upon
a transcription of my grandfather’s life, from a tape recording made by my uncle
Charles, into a book about a now-romanticised but forgotten aspect of Lakeland life.
I am also trying to restore three classic motorcycles, and to keep, drawing, keep
making sculpture, and keep writing.