The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Magic Garden Mural, Francis Carr, 1961

Following on from the well-attended and thoroughly entertaining Post-War Murals Study Day, organised by TACS Chair Lynn Pearson in November last year, the Society is focusing on murals this year. We are asking members and supporters of the Society to help us research and record examples throughout the country.  One person who got in quick—because we met him at the Study Day, was artist Francis Carr who is justifiably concerned about the future of his own Magic Garden mosaic at the New King’s Primary School in Kings Road, Fulham.

Francis Carr’s work is currently little known, but he has been a very prolific artist, and deserves full assessment.   Magic Garden is a mixed-media mural, in relief featuring a large number of screen-printed tiles produced by Carr himself.

Using the light from an adjacent window as a starting point for the positioning of the various media, Francis Carr used no less than 25 different sorts of materials in the work. Mirrors, enamel, resins, copper, tree bark, marble, cork, shell, porcelain and even two clock faces. The range of subject matter depicted is staggering too–flowers, animals, birds, landscapes, rocks, historical references and etchings.  The mural was an open invitation to the pupils to look carefully and investigate the contours, textures and qualities of each material.  It was a visually kaleidoscopic, tactile, artwork that was interactive before the phrase was ever coined.

Sadly the school became concerned that children might harm themselves on the mural and had it boarded up.  It has not been seen by anyone for over a decade now. The Society hopes to assist the school in applying for a grant to uncover the mural and Francis Carr has agreed to do the necessary renovation and repairs (if any) for free. Whether health and safety concerns will necessitate a discreet barrier will then have to be considered.

This is very exciting and fits neatly into our wider campaign for 2008. Murals are for everyone and the post-war years were a time of tremendous experimentation and exuberance for Public Art—as well as architecture. Our campaign hopes to highlight that and show that unfortunately many are not protected—listing will only be an option for the few that happen to be on very good buildings—far more deserve to survive.

Jon Wright