Monday 27 August 2007

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

Today’s car boot sale treasure is a 1953 brochure celebrating the completion of the Llandarcy Refinery in South Wales in a flourish of optimism typical of the time. A sense that science and technology can overcome all obstacles is everywhere and there are no concerns about sustainability to trouble the operators. The installation eventually closed in 1998 and it is planned that it will become the site of a new residential urban village. More detail can be read on the BP website. The cover and illustrations by Laurence Fish are reproduced here. Fish specialised in industrial subjects and produced posters for British Rail and covers for Flight magazine.

The first pair of images contrast the effort of the cloth capped proletarian on the left with the suit and overall on the right, engaged in quiet contemplation of the gleaming technological miracle before them. Stylistically the work is descriptive without being obsessively detailed in an idiom that would be familiar to readers of Fortune magazine. There is an interest in portraying technical complexity but atmospherically it all resembles a Garden City more than an industrial installation.

The second pair of images is transport related and the passage of time has lent a certain air of nostalgia to the rather brutish road tanker pictured on the right. Scammell trucks of this type have all but vanished from the roads of today although they endured for many years transporting fairground rides across the country. It must be observed that the rendering of the three cooling towers is distinctly half hearted and the hillside in the background is unconvincing. However, the illustration of an ocean going tanker on the left positively sparkles with a felicitous lightness of touch and saves the artist’s reputation.

Laurence Fish is happily still active today and an exhibition of recent paintings opens at the Priory Gallery, Broadway on September 29th. There is a useful biographical note on the gallery website.

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