OP AND POP
is for lovers of cool jazz, mystery,
If you're feeling that the art world is an exclusive society―then take a look at Op and Pop art. Take Op first: Remember the Marzine sea-sickness advert? It made your eyes swim. Well, that's Op art. It means optical intrigue. Look at the fabric on the wall, it moves, swings round in circles. Black and white, stark, architectural, clinical, sometimes cold, but always stunning. This fashion makes the most of modern synthetic mass-produced materials; they're hard, tough and shiny. Because of the absence of colour and accent on form, a bunch of flowers, a tray of drinks or a woman's dress becomes more important, interesting. It's a backcloth, so simple that other simple pieces blaze into life and colour.
Op-scene furniture is steel-boned, shiny, black-mac, luxuriously geometric: thin and slick, or fat and opulent. You don't have to furnish an entire room to make it Op art. Much simpler and cheaper to put a bulls-eye cushion on a plain architectural chair, or hang a Marzine-type fabric curtain. Remember though, Op art is a fashion and like fashion it expresses the getting to grips with new techniques, new shapes. A lot will last but much will fade. So, however keen on Op or Pop you are remember to use it in things you like as individual pieces or with things like wallpaper, cushion covers and decorations that you can change.
THE OP ART ROOM
Above: The cotton wall covering (on left) is from a selection of fabrics at Woollands and costs 17s 6d yd (48'' wide). Picture, Flickering Grid (centre), by Oliver Bevan, 70gns from Grabowski Gallery, 84 Sloane Ave, London SW3. Oxted 6ft settee with low back and arms; here in black PVC with aluminium alloy frame, £84. A 3ft version without arms, upholstered in fabric, costs £39. You can order them up to 10ft long. The Coulsdon chair has a satin-chromed steel frame, fully upholstered in PVC and costs £49 13s 6d.; Coulsdon circular table with satin-chromed steel frame and plate glass top, 30in diameter, costs £47 9s. All by William Plunkett at Woollands. Zebra skin on floor costs between £90-£100, by Joseph Hamliton & Seaton. Accessories: lamp in foreground; base is made of X-Lon, by X-Lon, costs £7 10s; shade in photo-printed plastic costs £5 3s 3d. Mug, 9s 9d; and orange aluminium bowl―a set of three costs 22s 6d. The Op Art cushions in felt cost 30s each. All from Woollands unless otherwise stated.
is for people who see humour in art, and art in everyday objects...
Pop is less awe-inspiring, less esoteric than Op. It's more fun, too. Pop means popular―its roots and its inspiration are in familiar, everyday objects―cigarette packets, national flags, strip cartoons, advertising pictures. As American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein says, it's the use of commercial art as a subject in painting. (Grandaddy of the movement was American Stuart Davis, who painted 'Lucky Strike' in 1921, a picture based on fragments of a cigarette packet.) Reflecting on the use of such objects the viewer is made to realise the significance of seemingly insignificant things―their actual design, as well as their power to conjure up nostalgic, associated ideas.
It's meant to cheer you up, communicate an idea, make you conscious of the detail in everyday objects. Since 1961, Pop art has had an increasingly pervasive influence on the art world in general―in graphic design, particularly painting and sculpture, as well as house decoration and furniture. As with Op, so with Pop―no one can live with a room full of it. Try it in small doses as wall decoration: like posters, toys; flags, jolly a wooden chair with gaudy colour, or paint a whitewood chest with fairground symbols or military stripes. In short, please yourself. You have an excuse now.
THE POP ART ROOM
BINDER, EDWARDS & VAUGHAN
The incredible hand-painted chest featured in the Pop Art room above, although solely attributed to Dudley Edwards, is an example of early work created as a partner in the design group Binder, Edwards & Vaughan which had been formed with fellow Bradford Art College graduates Douglas Binder and David Vaughan after the trio had reconnected while living in London. These brightly-coloured chests were among the first applied art pieces created at their Gloucester Avenue studio in Primrose Hill where the BEV style evolved as they began to merge influences from a variety of sources such as the background imagery in Marvel Comic's Dr. Strange drawn by Steve Ditko and the multicoloured painted door fronts of Bradford's Pakistani community―to the streamlined geometry of the Art Deco movement and the decorative art and painting techniques of the fairgrounds which they had frequented as teenage Teddy Boys.
Above: Binder, Edwards and Vaughan, photographed for a Sunday Times magazine feature in 1966 at their studio in Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill, amidst a selection of their hand-painted furniture designs. The original magazine caption read as follows: Apart from tarting up chests of drawers and the odd chair, Douglas Binder, David Vaughan and Dudley Edwards, left to right above, are now branching out into interior design. Recently completed jobs include painted walls in Woolland's 21 Shop, and the chests are available from Woolland, Knightsbridge, SW1., £20 to £30.
The first of these painted chests sold to the photographer David Bailey who lived at 177 Gloucester Avenue opposite the BEV studio, after they had decided to leave one on his doorstep overnight in an inspired moment of self-promotion, which resulted in payment by cheque the following morning...but more importantly, Bailey's bustling home/studio served as the ideal showcase for their work. Shortly afterwards they received an order from photographer Antony Armstrong Jones, otherwise known as Lord Snowdon―husband of Princess Margaret, which generated enough publicity in the national newspapers for more commissions to start rolling in, and before long they were on their way to bigger and better things, starting with a major order for two dozen chests from Woollands of Knightsbridge, which was closely followed by their move into painting interiors, large scale exteriors, and the customisation of cars.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the media they specialised in, tangible examples of the most exceptional work from their two-year output as a design group no longer exist...other than the photographs and film footage which documented it. But although the cars and various facades have long since been redecorated, I can't help but wonder if any of the painted furniture has survived...I'd like to think that there's more than one psychedelic BEV designed piece out there somewhere. I've checked the inventory of the late Lord Snowdon's estate which sold at Christie's in 2020, but the aforementioned item wasn't listed amongst the objects for sale.
However, after some further research I've discovered that his son David Linley established a furniture-making business in the early 1980s, now approaching its fortieth year, and he appears to have had a genuine love of furniture design since childhood, ignited by his father's taste, as seen in this quote from an interview in Vanity Fair (2017) “My father’s rooms, as a child, were a very exciting place to be,” David says, “not only because of the beautiful models who were coming to be photographed for Vogue or The Sunday Times but also because of the very avant-garde furniture that he had made.” So perhaps the BEV chest of drawers is still in the family's possession! I've also scoured through images of Bailey's Victorian terrace house on Primrose Hill as it looked in late 1968/early 1969, but to no avail, apparently he was apt to change the decor regularly as new inspiration hit, and judging by the photos from this period, 'Pop Furniture' was out!