From the catalogue of one man show at England & Co Gallery
4 Needham Road, London W112RP. 1994
Statement from Len Shelley
I am interested in illustrating stories based on overheard snatches of conversation, chance remarks, and people's family legends. When distilled down to a single sentence, such stories take on a different meaning becoming suffused with resonances that are quite general, and that I hope everybody can relate to as connected to their own lives.
I want my work to explore and illustrate our collective memory, evoking half forgotten feelings and events which can become distorted over time and almost surreal, surpassing their original mundane origins to take on a more universal significance. I try to cast my mind back to my own childhood and to evoke the simple powerful emotions I felt then, and to remember the physical environments I lived in and visited.
My working methods have developed from my interest in puppet animation films.The first stage in my making a box is developing the story, which I then set about illustrating by constructing the model characters. These are frequently anthropomorphic figures which play upon the existing archetypes found in children's literature and popular culture: although increasingly I am seeking to create characters of my own.
I am interested in exploring the fact that the relative prosperity enjoyed in this country today is a recent phenomenon, I feel that this is a precarious state with a dark and desperate world lurking not far beneath the surface. Often the situations I am portraying and the world I produce are quite grim, but I hope that by using humour I alleviate this to some extent and create characters that can be viewed with a certain degree of affection and sympathy.
The materials that I use reflect and reinforce the subject matter of my boxes. I always use old weathered materials found on the beach, in skips, or on the street. As a compulsive collector I am always looking for new objects and materials to work with. The materials I seek are items used and discarded by our consumer society, materials which already have a patina from age and wear, metal which is rusting, and wood that is old and worn with flaking paint. I construct the boxes myself using only recycled wood. The battered or worn nature of these things give them a wealth of character and suggestions of past worlds and lives, a reality which can not be found in new materials.
Len Shelley July 1994