In 1493 a book called The Nuremberg Chronicle was published. This book, more properly known as the Liber Chronicarum, is a history of the world from creation to its publication in 1493. Its structure follows the story of human history as related in the Bible while also including digressions on natural catastrophes & the histories of a number of important Western cities. Hartman Schedel, a Nuremberg physician & humanist scholar, compiled the work. It was illustrated & engraved by leading artists of the day, Michael Wohlgemut & Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, & published by Anton Koberger, the largest printer and publisher in Germany at the time.|
I bought a book containing some of the illustrations, & had it with me during the flood at Boscastle, Cornwall in 2004. The terrifying sight of buildings torn apart, trees ripped from the earth & the endless thundering roar of the flood remained fixed in my mind. The next day I began to draw, half-copying the woodcuts from the Chronicle, half exorcising my memory. That summer I carried on drawing imaginary Medieval disasters, most of which were spattered by the persistent rain. Flood never seemed far off; the fact that I spent the rest of the summer camped by a Dartmoor river reknowned for sudden inundations did not help.
Versions of these drawings were commissioned for Virgin Atlantic's in-flight magazine, but were eventually rejected, following the tsunami of December 26th 2004, a disaster that made the Boscastle floods seem a mere trickle. Versions of further drawings (rejected due to the perceived delicate sensibilities of American passengers) I later made into the screenprints called Operation Phantom Fury & Storm Shadow.
After many false starts I began working on the series of pictures that I ended up calling "London Views", pictures that owed more than ever to the woodcuts in the Liber Chronicarum, in particular the illustrations dealing with the fall of Babylon & the destruction of the cities of Sodom & Gommorah.
Fascinated by the extravagant curls of flame & the Op-art floods, I wanted to work like one of the Nuremburg artists; because travel in the 15th century was tricky, most of the far-off cities they depicted were drawn either from description or imagination - so much so that everywhere ended up looking like, well, Nuremburg. So I stayed at my desk, calling up images on Google whenever memory hit a particular dead-end, as was the case with the Swiss Re tower.
The series eventually became a panorama that stretches from the outer reaches of the Thames estuary upstream as far as Battersea, destroying the Flood Barrier, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and much more besides.
I have now massively enlarged these apocalyptic scenarios & caged them, much as the daily headlines for London's Evening Standard are caged with a diamond lattice of galvanised wire. If you are interested in cluttering up your house with such objects, you are advised to contact Lazarides, a former emporium of sado-masochistic paraphenalia at 8 Greek Street, Soho, London. For further information, either email email@example.com or telephone 0203 214 0055.