Sculptor: Charles Anderson, Artist


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Architectural Sculptor and Mural Designer
This part of his career occupied over thirty five years as an architectural sculptor and mural designer. Some of this work goes back to the mid 1960’s - the period, which is now sometimes referred to as “Brutalist Style” in architecture. His first commission for a mural (1961) was for Jack Coia - a well kent figure in Glasgow Art Club and a highly respected architect whose firm had won many prestigious awards. This “constructionist” mural was made for Coia’s house in Park Circus.

The decision to give up teaching as a young married man, with a mortgage to pay, a two year old son, and a daughter on the way, could be looked on as either courageous or foolhardy. He knew of no one else in Scotland making a living as a genuinely professional artist with no other source of income or support. However He had little choice at the time it seemed - either He said good-bye to security and a pension, or he turned his back on the biggest commission he had been offered to date (the incised mural relief for the Bellahouston Sports Centre.) It could not be done on a part time basis. The decision was made easier by the fact that payment for this commission, which took about 8 weeks of his time, was equal to a year’s teaching salary (in 1967)!

He made it a strict rule that if he was asked to do a mural or sculpture in a new technique - he always said “Yes, he could do it” and then went about finding out how it could be done! Thus he learned very quickly a lot about precast and insitu concrete techniques, thermoplastics, thermosetting resins and fibreglass manufacture and a host of other things.

One of the first things he discovered was that he had to dispel the conventional image of the artist as an easy going, somewhat scruffy, not very organised individual with a casual attitude to meeting deadlines. He donned a suit and made it the essential rule that work would always be delivered on time even if it meant as it sometimes did - working through the night!

The production of the artwork was tied into a structured building programme with penalties on Main Contractors for any delays. A reputation for reliability was essential. The demand for studio’s work increased in scope and scale. Soon he was travelling the length of the country - from London to Shetland fulfilling commissions for Local Authorities, Churches, Property Companies, and Insurance Companies who were investing in office buildings, shopping centres etc. It was hugely demanding work but immensely satisfying. He quickly found himself having to employ assistants and tradesmen whom he had to train in the specialised techniques he had developed. The restrictions imposed on the design element were many and varied. Wall reliefs in public places had to be “anti vandal”. If you left any plain area of any size it was an invitation for the graffiti brigade. Some of this early work was situated in entrance halls or children’s play areas in multi storey housing developments. To overcome this he found inspiration in both Indian art and South American art where wall surfaces were almost entirely covered with rich texture and pattern.

Cost was a prime consideration in most of the works. This was before the day of “Environmental Art”. There was rarely any budget for art work in building projects - although a notional 0.01% was supposed to be put aside for artworks, it seldom if ever was available.

He is grateful to those architects with enough enthusiasm and insight who were able to “hide” monies in the Bill of Quantities” for art work. Many times there appeared the phrase “specialist treatment to shutter work” against a sum of money which in reality was put aside for concrete sculpture and which under this description passed the eagle eye of the Quantity Surveyor and his red pencil.

Shop Mural by Charles Anderson
'Shopping Centre Mural by Charles Anderson'
The sculpture was considered by the architect to be an integral part of the building. In many cases the sculptural wall was also structural - supporting the rest of the building above.

The process of creating wall relief sculptures involved making negative moulds - mainly using expanded polystyrene sheet built up into the required thicknesses. These were carved out or burned out employing a variety of techniques.

Accurate drawings done to scale were produced and incorporated into presentation drawings for the architect and his client - and they had to be strictly adhered to. The scaled drawings were of course absolutely necessary in enlarging to full size when making the moulds. There was no room for error!

As can be seen from the photographs the scale of work was very large indeed.

In 1996 he undertook his last public work. The Scottish Sculpture Trust, acting for Livingston Corporation, held a national sculpture competition to provide a bronze figurative group for The New Town as a celebration before it, like the other Scottish New Towns, was officially wound up. He was the fortunate winner of this national competition and designed a larger than life size figurative group called “The Community” cast in bronze - to embody the spirit of Livingston. This took the best part of 18 months to complete. Since then he has turned back to the painting of works on a much more modest scale with enjoyment and delight.

The 1960's and 1970's were years of lively experimentation and exuberance for public art - especially murals - and architecture. Charles Anderson is quoted by the 20th Century Society as being "one of the best at this kind of mural" (relief sculpture above entrance to Greenock Central Library 1970). However some of Charles Anderson's murals - along with those of other artists are now at risk. His sculptural frieze for the Thomson Sports Centre - probably was the longest municipal sculpture in the United Kingdom, if not in Europe and was threatened with destruction when the building was demolished, however thanks to the foresight and generosity of a lopcal businessman Andrew Brown this important work was saved for the nation and is now to be seen at Crow Wood Leisure Ltd in Burnley.

Some Examples of Sculpture and Mural Work

The Savoy Centre - Sauchiehall St. Glasgow -
Mural for Savoy Centre by Charles Anderson

Structural concrete. c 1974.  Client Rank Property Developments. London.   Architect:  Gavin Paterson & Sons. Glasgow.  A great deal of insitu concrete relief sculpture was carried out in this building as well as cement render relief and areas of murals in synthetic resins.  Carried out in c. 1972. Little of it is now visible since the shopping centre passed into new ownership and was revamped.   However all of the structural concrete was apparently covered up with other cladding and should still be there.

Brandon St. Motherwell .
Mural at Brandon Street Motherwell by Charles Anderson
High level wall to raised amenity level. Size approx. 9 ft high and 300 ft long. Architect: Hugh Martin & Partners. This was done in precast concrete using polystyrene moulds. The piercings in each panel were part of the design, at the request of the structural engineers, to reduce weight. The sharpness of the detail in this technique is remarkable considering the delicacy of the mould material.

Charing Cross Station.
Mural at Charing Cross Station, Glasgow by Charles Anderson

Wall opposite entrance. Architect: Richard Seiffert & Partners. 1967

Entrance to Bell College of Technology, Hamilton.
Mural for Bell College of Technology, Hamilton by Charles Anderson

Fibreglass relief mural -. Client Lanark County Council. Size approx. 9 ft high and 16 ft long. Architect: Local Authority.

Strathclyde School of Architecture Building.
In-situ Sculpture for Strathclyde School of Architecture by Charles Anderson

In-situ concrete wall sculpture for Client - Strathclyde University. Architect: Prof. Frank Fielden & Assoc. 1965.

Livingston New Town .
Sculpture for Livingston New Town by Charles Anderson

The most prestigious commission to date (and last public commission undertaken) was the result of winning a national sculpture competition to provide a bronze figurative group (which is entitled "The Community" ) for Livingston New Town in 1996.


The Thomson Sports Centre - Burnley Lancs.
Mural for the Thompson Sports Centre - Burnley Lancs by Charles Anderson

Precast concrete panels. Architect: Local Authority. Size approx. 9 ft high, 150 ft long. Client Burnley Borough Council . c 1973.

Bellahouston Sports Centre. Glasgow.
Mural for Bellahouston Sports Centre by Charles Anderson

Incised cement render relief. approx. 35 ft high and 60 ft long. Client: Glasgow Corporation (as it was known then). c. 1967.

Offices of the Inland Revenue, Cumberbauld
Three dimensional Sculpture for Garrowhill School by Charles Anderson

Two piece three dimensional sculpture - insitu concrete for the Offices of the Inland Revenue, Cumbernauld.

New County Buildings Paisley.
Charles Anderson in his Studio working on Mural for New County Buildings Paisley

In the Studio/Workshop. Moulds for fibreglass relief mural for Size approx. Architect: Hutcheson, Locke & Monk Architects.

Scottish Amicable Life Assurance.
Sculpture for Scottish Amicable Life Assurance by Charles Anderson

Fibreglass sculpture for the Scottish Amicable Headquarters building at Craigforth in Stirling - a cold cast bronze sculpture almost 16 metres (53 ft) high. Architects: William Nimmo & Partners. Glasgow. c 1989