The Path to Dereliction
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
By Mark Lippett
Dereliction and abandonment are subjects that have inspired me since my days as a student. Over time the subject matter has varied and my approach to how I make it may be different to when I started but the central theme has never gone away.
As a teenager I liked looking at old churches and cathedrals and admired the design of the buildings as well as the worn surfaces of the stonework. It started my interest in architecture although I always preferred older buildings to new.
At art college we went on a trip to Prague and on one of the days went to see Terezin, an old World War 2 concentration camp that had a dark history and an eerie atmosphere. It was possibly this visit that inspired the first work that referenced abandoned buildings. At University I produced a series of work based around discarded objects that I found lying around. I wondered where they had come from and who had once used them. What stories were associated with each object? On my MA I produced a series of work based around living spaces but there were no figures involved. Instead, the scenes showed evidence of human interaction; a discarded coffee cup, an ashtray with cigarette butts, a plate with a few scraps of food etc. These things built up a picture of the kind of people who had used the space and my work became a snapshot in time.
All of the above led naturally into exploring derelict buildings, starting with a small structure not far from my home on the grounds of a hospital site. This peculiar old building seemed to be invisible to most people and just sat there neglected and ignored. I produced two pieces of work based on this site and then began to look for more.
Since then I have explored abandoned factories, ruined buildings on the outskirts of towns and World War 2 airbases. Sometimes the visits are planned but often they are discovered by chance. Some people seem to consider derelict buildings as depressing but I disagree. For me the attraction works on three different levels.
Firstly, there’s the abundance of textures and layers that are visible when you come across an abandoned building. A collapsed wall reveals colours and patterns that are normally concealed and the elements have, over time, battered the surfaces, transforming the appearance.
Secondly derelict buildings show the passing of time and you begin to wonder who used the building and what had happened there. Sometimes you discover discarded objects that reveal clues as to what the building was used for. Graffiti often appears showing more recent traces of human activity. Many of the derelict buildings I have painted no longer exist now.
Finally there’s the stillness and quiet atmosphere. In some cases the building has been abandoned for so long that nature has taken over. Trees and plants work their way through the concrete, into windows and through the roof.
It’s possible to find beauty and intrigue in almost anything, derelict buildings included.