Here, artist Delaine Le Bas reflects on the physical space she has made in the ongoing display The House of Le Bas, offering personal stories behind the artworks on display and expanding on the memories and places that hold importance for her.
Part installation and part archive display, the objects of The House of Le Bas relate to the shared life and experiences of Delaine Le Bas and her late husband Damian Le Bas and their perspective as English Romani Gypsy Travellers. Running through a diverse range of media, artwork, journals, photographs, embroidery and a record collection are stories that resist stereotypes and question what it means to be an ‘outsider’.
We started with a mind map of the ideas behind The House Of Le Bas installation. The whole installation revolves around the painting Meet Your Neighbours which was produced in 2005 and is a double portrait of Damian and myself, based on a portrait taken by Tim Walker (you can see his original photographs in one of the archive cases). The painting was shown as part of ROOM my first solo exhibition at Transition Gallery.
This also includes images that are used as a ‘backdrop’ for The House Of Le Bas Installation taken by Tara Darby in 2005 for a publication that was made to accompany the Transition Gallery exhibition. The painting was also part of the installation I created for the First Roma Pavilion ‘Paradise Lost’ at Venice Biennale in 2007.
In this picture all information spins out with images and handwritten text, including a recent work Rinkeni Pani (English Romani for Beautiful Water) which was commissioned for Radical Landscapes at Tate Liverpool in 2022. A performance book and another image plus the small tin of my Great Grandmothers that she used to stick her candle to the top with contents of a broken clay pipe, a safety pin and a small original drawing by my late and beloved Uncle Eddie – are all to be found in the archive cases inside the Gallery.
Here you can see a overall view of the installation with ‘backdrop’ images taken from ROOM by Tara Darby and many objects and artworks from the the house. The painting by Damian Lost In A Love Zone from 1998 was part of Love: Error and Eros, Love Profane & Divine at the American Visionary Museum and is also the title of a soul record by Ruth Davis.
The globe Gypsyland sitting on top of the glass cabinet is one of a series that Damian produced for Universal Hospitality for into The City in 2016 in Vienna where we created an installation Frontier De Luxe.
Then we move to the garden, the washing line which is where I produce all my large paintings outside, too little room inside…….in a pink frame is There’s A Storm Brewing It’s Coming Your Way is one of very few pieces that Damian and I actually worked on together and was made for Foreigners Everywhere which was at Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv in 2009. We were asked by Claire Fontaine who we had met previously when I created the installation The Walls Can Be Invisible for Living Together at Montehermoso Vitoria-Gastiez Spain curated by Xabier Arakistain and Emma Dexter.
Then there is I Love Worthing a performance painting from 2022 – Worthing is the place of my birth plus the place I have a love/hate relationship with but that’s too long a story for here……Meet Your Neighbours taking central place.
Nation Of Dog Lovers as a backdrop from ROOM which once completed in 2005 was taken to Venice Biennale in 2007 where it was stolen…not the first time work of mine has been stolen. A black and white photograph of Damian from 1984 which was part of his portfolio for Royal College Of Art application which he succeeded at being offered a place at. Roma Helter Skelter another performance painting from Gorki when Beware Of Linguistic Engineering was installed in 2022 the poster at the top is from this exhibition and the photograph of me is by Damian. The large images on the windows are sections from some drawings of Damian’s, the originals are either A4 or A3 in size and are graphite on paper, they actually look in reality like that are embossed into the paper.
The record player is so that the very small selection of records – all ones that are actually in Damian’s collection can be played. the image on the front of the box is off Damian’s Soul Bag which was customised in the mid 1980’s – it is an original post back with a Yorkshire Bitter pub towel, Damian was born in Sheffield and many of the patches are ones that he had collected but also hand made ones that are painted and embroidered. Damian stitched them all by hand.
On the top of the table is also a text by Paul Burgess who was at Royal College with Damian and remains a friend, it is from a zine Wanted Dead or Alive which was created as an Arty production by Cathy Lomax & Alex Michon – long time friends and collaborators. This zine accompanied the exhibition of the same name which was at James Colman Gallery in Hoxton in 2002 the original poster was also a photograph of us by Tim Walker which can be seen on the mind map wall and was taken at a Rose Garden on the outskirts of Colchester.
Damian’s two greatest passions when not creating art were music and his garden. His huge record collection which the Spotify link very barely scratches the surface of is something that he spent hours collecting, listening to endless tracks in record shops for days at a time. Damian could not use the internet very well…….or so he said but he would find tracks for me to buy and we would search out before we were going on trips to find record shops, even now I find myself drifting past them when in Berlin or knowing where they are elsewhere and when I find myself dipping into the record boxes it takes me straight back to where we were or a night out when I remember that tune being played……….
This Soul Bag was my college bag when I was at St Martins 1986-1988 and also accompanied us on our many nights out…..I would leave St Martins go straight to the R.C.A then we would then go to the Art Bar and then go out…..If only it could talk it probably remembers much more vividly than I can at this time the adventures we had. It also went to New York with Damian’s best friend Steve McMahon where it also had a very exciting life.
Damian started embroidering this jacket when I was making a similar jacket. The stitch work is excellent and includes some of Damian’s reoccurring motifs. It is also Damian’s favourite clothing -denim, he loved to wear double denim and treble denim. All three of us have worn this jacket at different times and I will continue to do so.
The house is in Worthing, we moved there in 2000 so for over twenty years we have lived in this place. It is bursting at the seams with artwork, collectables, books, clothes, what you are seeing in the installation is a fragment of what there is. The printed hankie has a drawing of Damian’s that our friend Tom Embleton, who makes these hankies every year at Christmas – this one was made the year after Damian’s sudden and unexpected death in 2017.
The House Of Le Bas is to tell our story and what has been created from a very small house in a small seaside town on the south coast , it is not Brighton, it is Worthing……….the glass cabinet contains many items – gifts from friends or to each other, also I noticed things after Damian had gone…..a small boat with two Mary’s and an oversized Robin and a very small Batman – its on the top shelf – Damian had a Batman obsession and we have a collection just of Batman memorabilia.
There is also a paperweight of a small globe and this had been placed upside down. Small ideas that transfer themselves into the works, all the different sized heads and characters are there to be seen. A Problem Child cup with a caravan motif by our friend Christine Binnie is also on one of the shelves. Hanging on the wall an Anti Athens Biennale 2018 lanyard, it was through Athens Biennale in 2016 that I met Nayia Yiakoumaki (Former Whitechapel Gallery Archive Curator) and this is why The House of Le Bas is here now.
Floating above the garden is a costume from Witch Hunt III which was made for a performance News From Gypsyland for the Berliner Herbstsalon at Gorki in 2019, the head is an Etching of myself as Medusa a recent work from a residency at Peacock in Aberdeen for the Aberdeen Bestiary – printmaking which I have not done since my college days at Peacock I worked with Master Printmaker Struan Hamilton.
Medusa is an ongoing fascination for me and I have made many works including this imagery and continue to do so. There are a number of books of mine in the archive cases where this image can be seen over and over again and she appears emerging form my stomach as an early painting in Meet Your Neighbours.
A favourite map of mine by Damian is framed lower down, this is from our personal collection. The double headed image at the top in the pink frame was created in 2011 on Soumenlinna Helsinki while we were doing a a HIAP residency. I drew round our heads and it refers to a conversation we were having in the space, a huge space which we were not use to having in order to make works, around titles and what we were doing at the time. We arrived just as it snowed in early January and to get to the mainland had a trip on a boat that cut through the ice, we had been asked there by Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen who have remained friends.
The clipboard with the horseshoe came directly from the wall in what was Damian’s room that he worked and kept everything in. If you look closely you will also see a very small record list with both his and Steve McMahon’s writing on. The t-shirt is recycled by me and is Zigeuner Sauce after Betye Saar taking inspiration from The Liberation Of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail there is a link for the performance and work I created for METAL at: thisisliveart.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Metal-digital-publication-web-final.pdf