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The life and soul of artist John Doubleday

PUBLISHED: 13:30 03 June 2013 | UPDATED: 13:31 03 June 2013

EXG JUN 13 Art

EXG JUN 13 Art


John Doubleday’s list of public commissions reads like a New Year’s honours list and includes the likes of Dylan Thomas, Charlie Chaplin and Nelson Mandela, to name but a few. The Langford-born artist and sculptor, who has had more than 30 solo exhibitions across the globe, is currently working on a sculpture of the Queen. Although he is delighted to be working on the commission of Her Royal Highness, he says he is not overwhelmed by her position in society and it has come at a time in his life when he feels confident that he will produce, ‘an interesting and powerful result’.

‘It’s very important to put aside all feelings of status,’ explains John. ‘I think a young child is just as interesting as a head of state. For me, personality is the important thing. What makes a portrait interesting is what a person is like. That’s what we all have, God-given personality.’

John recollects that when he was sculpting Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, there was a soldier in the room with a machine gun on his lap which he noticed the first time, but he forgot about it as he concentrated on capturing the prime minister’s character.

‘A commission is like a three-legged stool. It has to please the person who commissioned it, it has to be a true likeness of the subject and I have to be satisfied with it,’ says John, whose work appeals on a physical, emotional and intellectual level.

John works directly in wax and then the finished sculptures are cast in bronze. His love of the medium recently led him to choose to explore it in a new way. At the invitation of Bhalu Mondhe, cultural advisor to the State of Chhattisgarh, the former Goldsmith College and Open University student undertook a self-funded four-month residency in India where he worked alongside tribal bronze casters. The experience had a profound impact on John personally, as well as on his work.

‘It was interesting to see other people’s approach to the big issues. It’s given me a different view of western life. Most people in the world don’t have safe running water, so I will never take turning on the tap quite so for granted again. Ours can sometimes be an uncaring society, we can be self-obsessed with our own little things and the big issues get left to one side. Seeing things from another person’s viewpoint is one of the good things about travelling,’ adds John.

This month there is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the work John produced in Chhattisgarh alongside some of his paintings in his Indian Tails and Other Journeys exhibition, taking place at Haylett’s Gallery in Maldon until Saturday, June 15.


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